It seemed a certainty, but now doubt has been cast over the presumption that Irish legend Paul O'Connell will retire after next year's World Cup.
Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton could miss the opening match of the Six Nations after being ordered to rest following blows to the head.
Both parts of Ireland have united to bid for the World Cup in 2023, promising on Friday to rally Catholics and Protestants behind the event.
Irish rugby paid tribute to the man considered to be their greatest player during a memorial service for the late Jack Kyle in Belfast.
Former Ireland great Jack Kyle has died at the age of 88, his family announced on Friday.
Chris Henry has had an operation to repair a defect on his heart wall after a temporary blockage was discovered in a small blood vessel in his brain.
Ireland will played the Barbarians at Thomond Park, Limerick on Thursday, May 28, next year.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt underwent an operation to have his appendix removed on Saturday night just hours after victory over Australia.
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