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Zebo gets nod at fullback as Schmidt stresses that Rob Kearney is fit

It had been expected that Kearney would line out at the back for Ireland against England.

JOE SCHMIDT SAYS Rob Kearney was available for selection for Saturday’s clash with England at Twickenham.

The Leinster man had been expected to start at fullback for Ireland in their final World Cup warm-up tie, but Schmidt instead named Simon Zebo in the 15 shirt for the second time in three Tests.

Rob Kearney Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

That move sparked the thought that Kearney had picked up a late injury, particularly as the intimations had been the Louth man would indeed be starting this weekend.

Speaking at Carton House this afternoon, Schmidt said Kearney did have a bruised knee but insisted he had been available for selection. The 29-year-old did take part in training with the Ireland squad earlier today.

“We just felt it was important to get Simon a little bit more time at fullback once we decided he was going to cover fullback for us,” said Schmidt.

Rob Kearney has a bruise on his knee but he trained fully and we could have picked him.

“We wanted to give Simon another run at fullback, and Dave Kearney and Tommy Bowe again on the wings.

“We thought about putting maybe Luke (Fitzgerald) or Rob on the bench, but Darren Cave is the other guy who has had the least amount of game time so it was good to get Darren into the group as well.

“Because with Jared (Payne) and Robbie (Henshaw) we can always drop someone else back to fullback, they’ve slotted in pretty seamlessly in amongst it at training this week.”

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Keith Earls Earls watches on at training this afternoon. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The fact that Schmidt cited Fitzgerald as having been a possible replacement for this weekend’s game points to his swift recovery from a bang on the upper glute last weekend against Wales.

Keith Earls was another man replaced due to injury at the Aviva Stadium last time out, with his blow to the head appearing even more serious at the time. Schmidt says the outlook on both men is good.

“Keith has completed his return-to-play protocols thus far, so we’d expect that he would probably have been fit to be selected,” said Schmidt.

But the thing with Keith and what we’re trying to do with balance at the moment, there are some guys that play really well fresh and others that need to get a bit more of a game rhythm, and Keith’s had a couple of outings.

“In the first game in the Millennium I thought he looked super-sharp, so to have him fresh where there’s a small degree of doubt then it just made sense.

“Luke trained fully through the week, did a little bit of contact today, no problem. He would be fully fit, but he’s had two starts already.”

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