Captain Johnny Sexton joked that a cheekbone problem was the best facial injury anyone could endure when he declared himself fit for Ireland’s Guinness Six Nations match against Wales.
The influential midfielder underwent surgery earlier this month after colliding with Connacht’s Jarrad Butler while playing for Leinster on New Year’s Day.
Sexton has missed his province’s last three games, including Heineken Champions Cup victories over Gloucester and former club Racing 92, and is training in a face mask.
But the 37-year-old expects to be involved when the world’s number one team kicks off their campaign in Cardiff on February 4.
“(I’m ready for work; I was training last week, I was just wearing a funny face mask,” said Sexton.
“Keep it this week in training and it will come out next week, so it’s good to go next week.
“At that time, the European Games were number one in my mind. When you come to the conclusion that you won’t be able to play them, then Six Nations (comes to mind).
“But the surgeon and doctor were fine from this morning and just said it was probably the best facial injury, so it was nice to know!
“If you can choose one bone, choose this one.”
Sexton will be 38 at the time of this year’s World Cup in France but remains Ireland’s undisputed number 10 first choice in the Championship.
Ross Byrne and Jack Crowley were picked in the reserve, while Joey Carbery was shockingly overlooked by Andy Farrell’s 37-man team.
Head coach Farrell said all his halves had room for improvement, explaining Carbery’s absence.
“I understand that because it’s not that he played poorly, his form was quite good,” he said of the surprise of his decision to step down from the Munster player.
“But there was some feedback, as we do with a lot of players who didn’t make the roster, and Joey understands that.
“Ross Byrne has been gathering feedback for the last few years and couldn’t get into the room.
“He’s improved things we’ve asked him to so he’s got a chance to see if he can go international, he deserved the right to be able to do that
“And 100 percent Joey will be working hard to come back.
“Everyone has some improvement in themselves; Career-wise, Johnny is top of the tree, but he’ll be the first to tell you he’s got work to do, so everyone has.
“It’s a great place for us. Some depth, some competition, people fighting to be part of this Irish team.