Ireland captain in race against time
INJURY UPDATE: Ireland captain Rory Best may miss the start of the Six Nations, but star flyhalf Johnny Sexton could play next week already.
According to the Irish Mirror Best is facing a race against time to be fit for the Six Nations with a nasty foot infection.
According to the newspaper Best, who required hospital treatment after sustaining the problem in training, is ruled out of this week's Pro14 trip to Connacht.
He is also likely to miss forthcoming league games against interprovincial rivals Munster and Leinster.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will hope he returns in time for the crucial European Champions Cup fixtures against La Rochelle and Wasps in mid to late January.
However, if his return is delayed he could miss a substantial part of Ireland's Six Nations campaign - which kicks off against France at the Stade de France on February 3.
"We cannot put a date on it, but certainly [he is] missing the next couple of weeks anyway," Ulster assistant coach Niall Malone told the Irish Mirror.
"We are probably looking at Europe.
"It was caused by a stamp on the leg, but it was a blood infection and he was in hospital, so it is more medical than injury.
"It is a shame because he has not featured very much for us this year."
* Meanwhile the Ireland No.10, Sexton, could be available for Leinster's Pro14 derby clash with Munster next Tuesday.
He was forced off after just three minutes into last Saturday's impressive come-from-behind Champions Cup win over Exeter Chiefs.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt had suggested that Sexton passed a Head Injury Assessment, but Leinster officials confirmed later that the Ireland star did, in fact, fail aspects of the HIA assessment immediately after the incident.
Sexton has now been entered into the return to play protocols, which started on Sunday - a rest day after the Exeter clash.
He is automatically sidelined for six days from the day of the game having failed the initial HIA.
But if he passes a number of subsequent tests during the course of this week, he will get the green light by the weekend.
Sean O'Brien won't play next Tuesday, after shipping unspecified knocks in the Exeter game, but his injuries are not serious.
Hooker Sean Cronin fractured two teeth in that European clash and has had a dental procedure and will be assessed later in the week.
Barry Daly is set to return to onfield training this week after an ankle injury - but long-term concerns Rhys Ruddock, Joey Carberry, Jamie Heaslip and Tom Daly remain out.
Source: Irish Mirror