Alan Quinlan could miss the remaining four matches in the 'Pool of Death' after damaging his thumb in last weekend's Magners League victory over the Dragons
The Munster back row man is booked in for surgery on his thumb today (Tuesday) and is set to be sidelined for up to eight weeks.
It means the 33-year-old Irish international, veteran of 54 Heineken Cup clashes and a winner with Munster in Cardiff in 2006, is definitely ruled out of the back-to-back matches against Llanelli Scarlets in Rounds 3 and 4.
Quinlan has been in sparkling form this season and was voted Heineken man of the Match in the battle of the champions at the Ricoh Arena in Round 1, when the Heineken Cup holders London Wasps pipped the 2006 winners 24-23.
He followed up that performance with one of Munster's five tries in the bonus point victory over ASM Clermont Auvergne at Thomond Park in Round 2 as the Irish side got back on track for a quarter-final berth with a 36-13, bonus point victory.
The battle for Quinlan and his club now is to try to get him fit in time to figure in any of the final two Pool matches in January - away in France in the return match against the reigning European Challenge Cup holders, Clermont, on 11/12/13 January, or back home in Limerick for the repeat clash with Wasps the following weekend.
The injury to Quinlan comes on top of the fractured cheekbone suffered by new back row squad member Jake Paringati, who is out for at least a month following the knock he took against Clermont in Round 2 after coming on in the dying minutes.
Munster are still without inspirational skipper Paul O'Connell, who is currently in re-hab following a problem with a disc in his back. He is not due to play again until the New Year.