Ireland will be without Magners League duo Tommy Bowe and Jamie Heaslip for their first RBS 6 Nations match against Italy which takes place on Saturday February 5.
Ospreys wing Bowe has been struggling with a knee injury and following specialist consultations it has been revealed he will not be fit for the tournament opener. The Ireland medical team will continue to liaise with the Ospreys to determine when Bowe can return to action.
Leinster’s influential number 8 Jamie Heaslip will also miss the game at the Stadio Flaminio as he tries to recover from an ankle injury.
Heaslip picked up the knock in December whilst playing for his province in the European Cup but at this stage has not been ruled out of Ireland’s second fixture against France the following weekend.
Ireland will carry a considerable injury list in the Championship, which includes the likes of Andrew Trimble (hand), Rob Kearney (knee), Geordan Murphy (ankle), John Hayes (groin), Jerry Flannery (calf) and Shane Horgan (knee).
"You never like to see guys injured – we know how much playing for Ireland means to those guys,” said head coach Declan Kidney.
"We've tried to build a squad over the last few years and this will be the test of that. I have a huge belief in the way Irish rugby comes from the grassroots up.
"Of course there won't be as much video analysis on the new guys, so that will be an advantage."