Earls ruled out of Six Nations
Keith Earls will miss Ireland's entire Six Nations campaign with knee ligament damage that could keep him sidelined for two months.
The 26-year-old three-quarter's luckless injury run continues, after he limped out of Munster's 38-6 Heineken Cup victory over Edinburgh.
Earls signed a new two-year IRFU contract this week, rejecting strong overtures from Aviva Premiership and French Top 14 clubs.
Now he will sit out Ireland's Six Nations challenge as new head coach Joe Schmidt takes control of his first championship.
Earls is yet to feature under new boss Schmidt after knee problems sidelined him from autumn Test series duty.
Former New Zealand schoolteacher Schmidt had hoped 39-cap Earls would beat his knee issues back in November, but his problems lingered on.
Fit by the end of November, just weeks after Ireland action finished, Earls had found form ahead of the Six Nations but once again injury has struck at the worst possible moment.
Ireland boss Schmidt had admitted at Wednesday's Six Nations launch the outlook on Earls was fairly bleak.
"I'd say there might be a bit of medial damage there," said Schmidt on Wednesday.
"If it is, it could be anything from three to six, to eight weeks.
"Certainly he'll be unavailable for the Scotland and Wales games."
The worst possible prognosis has now been realised, after Munster and the IRFU were able to examine detailed scans.
Ireland will aim to start the Six Nations with experienced centre pairing Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll in tandem against Scotland in Dublin on February 2.
Fit-again Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo are in Irish Wolfhounds action against England Saxons in Gloucester on Saturday, and could yet prove their fitness to force a return to Schmidt's full Six Nations squad.