Ireland lock Tadhg Beirne will miss the remainder of the Guinness Six Nations after being ruled out for up to 12 weeks with an ankle injury.
The 31-year-old Munster player was due to undergo surgery on Thursday, having been forced off early in the second half of Saturday’s 32-19 win over France in Dublin.
British and Irish Lion Beirne, who has started his country’s last 14 Tests, left the Aviva Stadium on crutches, with his forthcoming absence a major blow for Andy Farrell’s team.
“Tadhg Beirne will undergo surgery today on the ankle injury he sustained in Saturday’s win over France,” read a tweet from the Irish Rugby Football Union.
“Unfortunately, Tadhg will be ruled out for up to 12 weeks.”
Head coach Farrell said following the weekend game that Beirne’s issue “did not look great”, with his fears subsequently confirmed.
Ulster captain Iain Henderson replaced Beirne on Saturday and is the obvious choice to come into the second row to partner James Ryan in Rome.
Leinster pair Ryan Baird and Joe McCarthy and Connacht’s Cian Prendergast are the other options available to Farrell.