Ireland’s prospects in the Six Nations continued to deteriorate on Monday when Cian Healy was cited for stamping on England prop Dan Cole in the 12-6 defeat at the Aviva Stadium.
Adding to the sense of alarm in the Irish camp is the news that fly-half Jonathan Sexton and lock Mike McCarthy are rated doubtful to face Scotland on February 24, while Brian O’Driscoll and Donnacha Ryan are to see specialists.
Healy will appear before an independent Six Nations disciplinary committee in London on Wednesday to answer for an offence that received widespread condemnation.
The recommended suspension for a low end stamping offence is two weeks, the mid range five weeks and top end nine weeks, up to a maximum of one year, although adjustments to take account of remorse shown, a guilty plea and previous disciplinary record can be made.
It is hard to envisage Healy, a leading contender for selection by the Lions in Australia this summer, escaping censure on Wedensday given that television replays clearly show the incident - and the viewing certainly does not favour Healy.
A two-week ban would rule him out of Ireland’s next Six Nations assignment against Scotland on February 24, while a more extensive suspension would also threaten his involvement against France and Italy.
Coach Declan Kidney can ill-afford to lose a player of Healy’s calibre, especially while he contends with an ever-lengthening injury list.
An update released on Monday revealed that Sexton has strained rather than torn his hamstring, but his participation at Murrayfield is still uncertain.
McCarthy’s knee is to be examined by a specialist, as is O’Driscoll’s ankle and Ryan’s back. Neither O’Driscoll nor Ryan have been ruled out against Scotland, but McCarthy could be sidelined.
Stemming the flow of bad news is that full-back Rob Kearney and openside Sean O’Brien are expected to travel to Edinburgh after suffering a dead leg and tight hamstring respectively against England.
Kearney has attempted to rally deflated his team-mates by declaring that victory over Scotland will thrust them straight back into title contention.
Ireland’s dream of repeating their 2009 Grand Slam ended at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday with a performance that once more highlighted the team’s maddening inconsistency.
After the optimism generated by an emphatic opening-day win against Wales, England supplied a reality check.
“You always want to back up one big win with another,” the Leinster full-back said.
“We’ve been criticised over consistency in the past and England were the perfect opportunity to showcase that we are a consistent team who can back up victories.
“But it’s by no means panic stations. We have to take a bit of confidence from the fact this championship is still wide open.
“We’ll keep plugging away and if we get back to winning ways in Edinburgh we’ll be back in the hunt again and that has to be the focus.
“England are the only unbeaten team, but they still have France and Wales to come who are World Cup semi-finalists, so they won’t be easy games.
“It’s wide open.”