Ireland will be without influential No.8 Jamie Heaslip for the potential Six Nations decider against England in Dublin on 1 March after suffering a fractured spine in three places after a knee to the back by France lock Pascal Pape during the 18-11 win on Saturday.

Pape was yellow-carded after the incident in the 52nd minute and reported by the citing commissioner Stefano Marrama and could miss the remainder of the Championship through suspension after being adjudged to have broken rule Law 10.4, which states: "A player must not strike an opponent with the fist or arm, including the elbow, shoulder, head or knee(s)."

The 34-year-old faces an independent hearing later this week and could be ruled out for between one to ten weeks, which would see him miss France's remaining three games against Wales, Italy and England.

Heaslip meanwhile is facing a race against time to feature in any of Ireland's remaining games, their last competitive fixtures before the World Cup starting in September 2015.

The Irish Rugby Football Union says Heaslip could recover in "approximately" four weeks, in time for the final match against Scotland at Murrayfield, but a time span that will see him absent for the games against England and then Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

The injury news is a huge blow to Ireland's hopes of regaining the Six Nations championship, particularly having already been without the Leinster forward for the opening weekend win over Italy, however no risks will be taken just seven months out from the World Cup.

"He's very uncomfortable at the moment. He got a knee in the lower back so we'll get him checked out over the next couple of days," coach Joe Schmidt said after the win at the Aviva Stadium.

"At least we can come up for a breath for a couple of days before we begin our preparation for England but we'll wait and see how Jamie is but he's pretty uncomfortable at the moment."