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Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has been dealt a major blow with the news that Iain Henderson could miss the RBS Six Nations.
Henderson tore his hamstring in the PRO12 win over Edinburgh on Friday and there are fears that he could miss the remainder of the season.
The Ulster player was one of Ireland's star performers at the recent Rugby World Cup and had been expected to fill the gap left by Paul O'Connell's retirement. However, Ulster's director of rugby Les Kiss fears he may have to sit out the second half of the campaign.
"Iain's type of injury has historically been up to six months out," Kiss admitted. "At this stage it doesn't look good in terms of the Six Nations.
"He has a consultation later this week and the medics will work out the best form of surgery going forward."
Dan Tuohy, Peter Nelson and Darren Cave all picked up injuries against Edinburgh - Nelson is set to miss the remainder of the season with a dislocated foot - and Kiss admits the high injury rate is a worry.
"It worries me if players get injured, but that is the nature of the beast. Iain Henderson’s injury happened with stress through the body, and it simply gave way," Kiss explained.
"What I do like at Ulster is that our approach in managing the load of the player with the GPS data and hopefully we can dodge injuries that way. Last weekend I would say was just a little bit of bad luck."