Schmidt fearing lengthy Van der Flier absence

Josh van der Flier could be facing a lengthy absence after suffering a knee injury in Ireland's dramatic Six Nations win over France.

The flanker did damage late in the first half at Stade de France and was unable to play any further part as Ireland snatched a 15-13 win courtesy of Jonathan Sexton's drop-goal with the clock red.

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said Van der Flier will definitely not face Italy next weekend and may be a long-term absentee.

"Josh will be unavailable next week," said Schmidt.

"He will get a scan either tomorrow evening or Monday. It looks like it could medial ligament but that is just my naive diagnosis.

"I thought Josh was playing really well for us in that opening 25 minutes."

Teddy Thomas' magnificent solo try nine minutes from time looked to have given Les Bleus victory, but there was a final twist when Sexton added to his four penalties by holding his nerve with the last kick of the game from around 40 metres out.

Schmidt added: "It's pretty hard to explain how you feel when you think the game has got away and you have let it slip and suddenly you have grabbed it.

"It was an incredible team effort to work their way up the pitch about 40, 45 metres and then add on a 40-metre drop goal. It was fairly inspirational. Even the fact that so many people had to be involved.

"We had to drop kick the ball and Iain Henderson got it back. We played a number of phases, a cross kick for Keith Earls who leapt three or four feet into the air to claim it.

"When he struck the drop goal I was just willing it to have enough distance to get over. The coaching staff we all stood up as one and cheered with the other Irish supporters who were in the stadium."

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