Conor Murray will miss Ireland’s November internationals due to ongoing neck troubles, in a sizeable blow to head coach Joe Schmidt’s plans.
Ireland must now face Italy in Chicago, then Argentina, New Zealand and the USA in Dublin without stellar British and Irish Lions and Munster scrum-half Murray.
The 29-year-old has not played since Ireland’s summer tour to Australia and, while he has returned to Munster training, he is not yet ready for match action.
Ulster’s John Cooney steps up in Murray’s absence, with Will Addison, Sam Arnold and Ross Byrne the three uncapped players in Ireland’s 42-man squad.
Murray moved to explain his injury situation on Wednesday, with updates on his neck troubles having been previously intermittent.
Asked when he might be back in action, Murray told reporters: “A couple of weeks; obviously the (Ireland) squad is being named today and I haven’t chatted to anyone.
“I’ve been over and back and they know where I am with the injury.
“I’d have been lucky to be named in it because I haven’t played and you need that - especially with the calibre of Argentina and the All Blacks in particular. You’re going to have to be ready.
“So, in and around the end of November hopefully.”
FORWARDS: R Best (Ulster, captain), F Bealham (Connacht), T Beirne (Munster), J Conan, S Cronin, T Furlong, C Healy (all Leinster), I Henderson, R Herring (both Ulster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), D Leavy, J McGrath (both Leinster), J Murphy (Ulster), S O’Brien (Leinster), P O’Mahony (Munster), A Porter (Leinster), Q Roux (Connacht), R Ruddock, James Ryan (both Leinster), John Ryan, N Scannell, CJ Stander (all Munster), D Toner, J van der Flier (both Leinster).
BACKS: W Addison (Ulster), B Aki (Connacht), S Arnold (Munster), R Byrne (Leinster), J Carbery, A Conway (both Munster), J Conney (Ulster), K Earls (Munster), R Henshaw, R Kearney, J Larmour (all Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), S McCloskey (Ulster), L McGrath, G Ringrose, J Sexton (all Leinster), J Stockdale (Ulster), D Sweetnam (Munster).