Declan Kidney will be forced to look at his fly-half options for Ireland's clash against Scotland in just over a week after Jonathan Sexton hobbled off in a 12-6 loss to England on Sunday.
The Leinster star, 27, was replaced just after the half-hour mark and a scan on the hamstring injury led the IRFU to confirm Sexton is a doubt for the Scotland tie after a "particularly attritional international match".
Kidney turned to veteran Ronan O'Gara at the weekend but the Munster fly-half struggled. He was caught in possession on a number of occasions, being swallowed up by ferocious Red Rose tackles, while he failed to find any distance with his tactical kicks.
Would Kidney turn to him for the Murrayfield clash? O'Gara is by far the most experienced of Ireland's fly-half options with 127 Ireland caps, and with that, comes a tactical knowledge which his adversaries would find hard to match.
However, he's undeniably struggling for form. He was caught sitting too deep in the pocket, his range of kicking was poor and his defence and tackling was abject against England. The issue for Kidney is after O'Gara and Sexton, there is a real dearth of experienced options at fly-half.
Sexton's understudy at Leinster is Ian Madigan. The 23-year-old, yet to earn an Ireland cap, has a superb passing game which was highlighted by his glorious looping pass to Sean O'Brien, leading to Sean Cronin's try in Leinster's Heineken Cup final triumph in 2012.
Furthermore, the former Blackrock star has been learning from Sexton over the past couple of seasons, making him well-placed to fill his team-mate's void. He's set to be asked to step up and replace Sexton at club level - so why not at international level too?
Another option would be Ulster fly-half Paddy Jackson. The 21-year-old made his senior debut in February 2011 and went on to make a valuable contribution to his side's run to the Heineken Cup final in 2012 - although he struggled in the final at the Millennium Stadium.
Jackson is a good user of the ball, bringing team-mates into the game, while he's a good tactical kicker. Defensively, the youngster has played at No12 before and shown that he's more than capable when facing opposition runners.
However question marks would linger about Jackson's lack of experience and mentality - he struggled in Ulster's final loss to Leinster last May in Cardiff.
Finally, there is O'Gara's rival Ian Keatley. He's become an increasingly important player for Munster after impressing in a 30-3 victory over Edinburgh, scoring 20 points. Despite recent displays, he would struggle to dislodge his club team-mate and Madigan in the pecking order.
Bearing in mind Sexton's much-touted move to France, it's time Kidney started to groom the next big prospect at fly-half to provide proper competition to the current Leinster star.
But who is the Ireland head coach's best option for the Scotland tie? It's probably Madigan, who has impressed in the Rabo ProDirect 12 over the past year, with O'Gara again playing the understudy role.
With Kidney set to make his decision next week, it will be an interesting weekend of Rabo rugby, with Jackson expected to face Zebre on Friday, while Madigan will line up against Treviso, and O'Gara is set to take on Llanelli. Watch this space.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jonathan Sexton
- Declan Kidney