Ireland full-back Felix Jones ruled out of World Cup
Ireland full-back Felix Jones has been ruled out of the World Cup after suffering ankle ligament damage in Saturday's defeat by France in Dublin.
Munster's Jones had been tipped to earn a place in Declan Kidney's 30-man squad which is being announced on Monday.
Jones' absence appears to boost the prospects of inclusion for Luke Fitzgerald and Geordan Murphy with Paddy Wallace likely to be selected.
Denis Leamy and Shane Jennings may be in a direct fight for a flanker berth.
After David Wallace was rested as a precaution, Jennings started at number seven in Saturday's 26-22 defeat but it's hard to imagine a 30-man Irish squad minus Leamy.
Kidney has also some thinking to do over his front row selections with Tony Buckley appearing to be in opposition to old warhorse John Hayes for the fourth and final prop slot.
Donnacha Ryan is being tipped to get the nod to provide second row cover alongside Leo Cullen for Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan.
But the real selection headaches for Kidney are in the backs with Isaac Boss vying with emerging Munster talent Conor Murray for scrum-half inclusion alongside Tomas O'Leary and Eoin Reddan.
With Jones now out of the equation, Murphy, Paddy Wallace, Fergus McFadden and Fitzgerald appear to be involved in tight contests for the three final places in the backs.
A year ago, Fitzgerald would have represented an automatic inclusion but he has struggled for form over the last 12 months and could be in danger of missing out on the trip to New Zealand.
Kidney has kept Irish supporters guessing ahead of Monday's announcement.
After his team's third defeat in as many weeks, Kidney has faced questioning about the wisdom of playing four Tests in quick succession, with next Saturday's game against England to come.
The logic behind arranging the fixtures was to avoid a repeat of 2007 when Ireland entered the World Cup undercooked.
However, the Irish now face the very real possibility of departing for New Zealand troubled by the self-doubt that accompanies four consecutive defeats.
Kidney, however, is convinced the schedule is justified on the grounds of establishing match fitness in his players.
"There was a reason why we went for this number of games. I knew we'd need the games. We're better off for having them," he said.
"We obviously need to work on the results, there's no hiding away from that.
"One match is worth about 10 training sessions. We just need more and more of that."