Leinster were hit with a big blog when Mike Ross was taken off with what looked like a serious injury in their brave defeat to Toulon. The 36-year-old cornerstone of Leinster and Irish scrum came off after 25 minutes for the promising Martin Moore. It's almost a year since Matt O'Connor dropped Ross during Leinster's mini- January revival for Moore - before Schmidt's faith in Ross helped Ireland retain the Six Nations trophy.
So it's not good news when Cullen confirmed that Ross has suffered some damage to his hamstring:
Mike has done his hamstring so we'll see. It is in tact, at least. But it is a significant strain slash tear.
It doesn't sound too bad, but it should mean that Ross will face a race to be match-fit for the Six Nations. With the likes of Henderson, O'Connell, O'Mahony, and O'Brien all uncertain or unavailable to Schmidt for the opening game against Wales means that more than half of Ireland's first choice pack from the World Cup will be absent. Add in the doubts over Ulster duo Jared Payne and Tommy Bowe, as well as Robbie Henshaw then it shows the challenge facing Ireland and Schmidt.
It's a new era for Ireland, and it's promising that the likes of Tadhg Furlong, Moore, and Stuart McCloskey are pushing for inclusion in Ireland's squad and are giving fans a glimpse of a brighter future.
Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE