Andrew Trimble and Ultan Dillane out of Ireland's Six Nations campaign
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 05/03/17 7:57pm
Ulster winger Andrew Trimble and Connacht second row Ultan Dillane have been ruled out of Ireland's final two games of the Six Nations with hand and shoulder injuries respectively, the IRFU confirmed on Sunday.
Trimble has been ruled out for the rest of the Six Nations following a bone fracture in his hand suffered in Ulster's 19-7 victory over Treviso on Friday, while Dillane will undergo surgery this week for an ongoing shoulder problem.
Trimble, 32, had only just returned to the Ireland set-up following a groin injury, but will now miss fixtures with Wales in Cardiff on 10 March and England in Dublin eight days later.
The Ulster wing, who has 70 caps for Ireland, came off the bench in their 19-9 victory over France in Dublin on 25 February and started for Ulster in Belfast on Friday in a bid to gain more minutes.
Trimble's hand complaint adds to Joe Schmidt's injury concerns surrounding Leinster full-back Rob Kearney, with the Ireland coach now possibly facing a trip to the Principality Stadium without two of his most experienced backs.
Dillane, meanwhile, will be out of action for between eight to 10 weeks according to the IRFU, who released a short statement confirming his and Trimble's injuries.
In better news for Schmidt, Ulster centre Jared Payne made a full return to Ulster duty on Friday in the victory against Treviso.
Payne hadn't started a match since Ireland's November victory over Australia following a worrying kidney injury, but could now come into the fray for a starting position in the back three having played at full-back throughout his career.
Payne excelled for Ireland at full-back on the summer tour to South Africa in Kearney's absence and has played the majority of his rugby for Ulster in the full-back berth.
Connacht full-back Tiernan O'Halloran or a positional switch for Munster's Simon Zebo are also possible options for Schmidt should Kearney fail to make it in time for Friday's trip to Cardiff, though the IRFU confirmed on Sunday that Kearney was "progressing well through his rehab" and is "expected to train fully on Monday".
Ahead of that clash with Wales, Ireland sit second in the Six Nations table having lost their opening game against Scotland in Edinburgh but beaten Italy and France since.
A victory in Cardiff could set up a title decider for Joe Schmidt's men against England in Dublin on 18 March.
Tommy Bowe has been added to the squad as a replacement for the injured Trimble.