Irish duo's Lions rugby hopes hit by injury

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Ireland's Jamie Heaslip (C) will be out for a number of weeks after undergoing a "minor procedure" on his lower back

Jamie Heaslip and Rob Kearney's hopes of making the British and Irish Lions squad suffered a setback Friday when they were ruled out for several weeks due to injury, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said.

Cullen said No8 Heaslip will be out for a number of weeks after undergoing a "minor procedure" on his lower back to sort out the problem that forced him to withdraw at the last minute from the starting Ireland XV for last Saturday's 13-9 win over Six Nations champions England.

Full-back Kearney, who has been tipped for the Lions tour of New Zealand because of his ability under the high ball, also had surgery on the knee injury he suffered ahead of the England match.

The 30-year-old, like Heaslip, has been in two previous Lions squads. He is expected to be out for between four to six weeks.

"Jamie just had a procedure done on his back this morning (Friday)," said Cullen.

"He had disc issues. He had a bit of discomfort at the start of the week, so he saw a specialist. It obviously rules him out of the next number of weeks."

“Rob had a procedure done during the week after seeing a specialist on Tuesday. That's probably four to six weeks. We'll see how he comes through that."

Cullen admitted the news was not great for the Irish province as they enter the business end of the season in both the Celtic League and the Champions Cup -- they host Premiership leaders Wasps in a quarter-final on Saturday week.

"It's definitely a loss, if you think of what's coming up," said Cullen.

"But that's the nature of the business we're in. It's another chance for guys to come in."

Both are unlikely to gain any playing time prior to the announcement on April 19 of the Lions squad -- made up of players from England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland -- by head coach Warren Gatland.

The three Test tour begins in Gatland's native New Zealand with a June 3 match against the New Zealand Barbarians.