We knew Ireland's injury luck couldn't last forever
76 minutes into Ireland's Six Nations victory over Italy and they were 39 points to the good. The Azzurri were bashing it up for a consolation score but Ireland were not having it.
Keith Earls was not having it. Nor was Ultan Dillane. Rob Kearney was definitely having none of it.
Italy breached the Irish lines up the left flank but Ireland were soaking the hits in. Kearney made two in the space of 20 seconds and was attempting a turnover when Italian lock Marco Fuser took him on. He was then barrelled into by 17-stone prop Sami Panico.
This is where Kearney sustained damage to his bicep. He stayed on for two more minutes as Ireland repelled Italy's advances before countering and scoring through Craig Gilroy. With the score 56-10, Kearney left the fray and Ireland were down a man for the final minutes.
Not that it mattered - Gilroy got his hat-trick and a 63-10 victory was secured. Post-match, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said:
"I think Rob got the point of an elbow onto his biceps, I didn't really have a chance to talk to him. Over the next 48 hours we'll have further clarity.
Schmidt added, "If in doubt we probably would get him scanned by next Friday."
By this Friday, the results of a scan on Kearney's bicep will be fully known. He is already missing the squad's three-day training camp in Monaghan, this week, and surgery on the arm would most likely see him miss the France game.
There is a strong possibility that it would also force him out of the Wales and England games on March 10 and 18. While Kearney has had a recent revival in fortunes in the green jersey, Schmidt has either Simon Zebo or Tiernan O'Halloran to choose from. With Andrew Trimble set to be fit for France, Zebo would be the best bet to start at 15.
Ireland have had it relatively handy in terms of injuries so far, although Trimble, Johnny Sexton and Peter O'Mahony have missed the opening two fixtures.
That resolute Irish defence, at Stadio Olimpico, may yet prove vital in the final points difference. It may have also come at the cost of Kearney.
Episode 37 of The Hard Yards rugby podcast features Sam Warburton, Garry Ringrose and Rugby World's Paul Williams.
While you're here, check out the latest episode of #SportsJOElive where we had Irish legends Shay Given and Clinton Morrison on the couch!
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