RORY Best could recover from injury to his right shoulder to play again at the Rugby World Cup if Ireland beat Wales in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
Best is set to sit out the match in Wellington after spraining the joint in the 36-6 win over Italy.
The nature of the injury meant the Irish hooker was in danger of being ruled out until after the October 23 final, but team officials say he could be playing again before then.
"His chances at the moment are long: he's doubtful for this weekend but he's not ruled out of the tournament," said kicking coach Mark Tainton.
With Jerry Flannery already having withdrawn from the tournament because of injury, Sean Cronin is likely to take Best's place in the front-row against Six Nations rivals Wales.
Munster hooker Michael Sherry has been summoned as precautionary cover for Best.