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Kearney blow for Ireland as Wales lose key forward trio

IRELAND have been dealt another major blow ahead of next weekend’s Six Nations clash with England after full-back Rob Kearney was ruled out with a knee injury.

The Leinster star suffered the injury in the 33-10 defeat by France in Paris last Saturday and is expected out for between three and five weeks.

It is the latest in a series of blows for coach Declan Kidney, who already has Stephen Ferris (knee), Leo Cullen (ankle), John Hayes (head) and skipper Brian O’Driscoll (knee) facing fitness tests for the Twickenham clash, while Jerry Flannery is banned for six weeks after being found guilty of kicking out at Alexis Palisson in Paris.

“Rob Kearney is rehabbing and is out for England,” Kidney confirmed. “We’d always give it 48 hours before confirming, but we expect him to be out for between three to five weeks.”

Wales, meanwhile, are without forwards Gareth Williams, Gethin Jenkins and Matthew Rees for next weekend’s clash with France in Cardiff. They join lock Alun Wyn Jones (shoulder) on the sidelines, while flanker Andy Powell has been suspended from the squad.

Hooker Williams suffered knee ligament damage in the 31-24 victory over Scotland, while Jenkins and Rees have calf and groin problems respectively.

Scarlets hooker Ken Owens has been called up as cover.