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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 19 February, 2019
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Kearney, Ringrose and Marmion 'on the right track' to face the All Blacks

Joe Schmidt’s squad trained at their base at Carton House this morning.

INJURIES HAVE ALREADY clarified Joe Schmidt’s selection process to some degree this week, so the news Rob Kearney, Garry Ringrose and Kieran Marmion ‘are on the right track’ to be fit for Saturday is a welcome relief.

Kearney and Ringrose missed last weekend’s victory over Argentina, while scrum-half Marmion rolled his ankle in that game, but the trio took a full part in this morning’s squad session at Carton House.

Rob Kearney and Jonathan Sexton Kearney and Johnny Sexton during this morning's session. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell reported that all of the squad took to the training paddock earlier, with Bundee Aki — who also rolled his ankle — fully fit to face the All Blacks on Saturday evening [KO 7pm, RTÉ 2, Channel 4].

The loss of Seán O’Brien and Robbie Henshaw aside, Schmidt is set to have a full deck to choose from this weekend for the hotly-anticipated clash of the top two teams in the world rankings.

“Everyone’s took the field and some of the lads are progressing well,” Farrell said. “They all trained, full session. We’ll take stock of that over the next 24 hours but [they're] on the right track.

“Ringrose trained and trained well and got another week under his belt.”

Fit again, Ringrose was set to return at outside centre regardless of Henshaw’s hamstring injury given his distribution and defensive ability in that important midfield channel.

Marmion acquitted himself well against Argentina, scoring Ireland’s first try, and is in line to start against the All Blacks having shaken off the ankle problem, although Luke McGrath is pushing him for the nine jersey.

Kearney’s return is a welcome boost, particularly given New Zealand’s aerial prowess, and the composure the fullback brings in the air will be hugely significant against Damian McKenzie. 

The 32-year-old missed the games against Italy and the Pumas with a shoulder injury, but has made good progress in his comeback and is set to win his 87th cap at the weekend, and his 11th against the world champions.

A general view of the team huddle The Ireland squad at Carton. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“Anyone would be happy to have Rob Kearney in the squad,” Farrell continued.

“The experience alone of what he has been through and obviously the experience of playing against New Zealand before, he’s key to any squad.

“When you say [the New Zealand] kick a lot, they don’t just kick, they kick very accurately. They kick on the front foot and their ability to get in the air when there is space is right up there.

“Rob is outstanding in that area. He’s talking to the rest of the lads and giving his tips how to do that. It’s a collective, it won’t just be on Rob if he plays, it’ll be on the two wingers and whoever else is in the back field.”

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Ryan Bailey

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