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Ireland waiting on key duo

Brian O'Driscoll and Jonathan Sexton missed training on Wednesday but Ireland remain hopeful they will be passed fit for the climax to the Guinness Series against New Zealand.

O'Driscoll and Sexton are struggling with respective calf and hamstring problems and are rated doubtful for Sunday's Aviva Stadium showdown with the All Blacks.

Forwards coach John Plumtree insists time is on the duo's side as they seek to recover for Ireland's final match of the year.

"It's hard to say if they'll be available. The nice thing is that we've got a long turnaround this week," Plumtree said.

"It's only Wednesday, so they've got a day off on Thursday and then come in on Friday.

"We've got that extra day which is great and hopefully by the time they come in on Friday they'll be feeling a lot better."

O'Driscoll's absence would be a bitter pill to swallow for both player and country given it will be his last chance to play New Zealand before retiring at the end of the season.

There was more promising news over the availability of full-back Rob Kearney, who was able to train on Wednesday as he continues his rehabilitation from a rib problem.

"Rob trained all right. I'm not sure how he's feeling afterwards, but he took part full in the session, which was good. I'm sure he'll be all right," Plumtree said.

The British and Irish Lions trio played in Saturday's 32-15 defeat by Australia, a bitterly disappointing result and performance that saw Ireland beaten 4-0 on the try count.

Plumtree was angry with the display of his pack and warned them a substantial improvement is required if they are to compete with the All Blacks.

"We were very average against Australia and we're very disappointed with that performance. We scrummed poorly," Plumtree said.

"We conceded a soft try from their drive which the boys are fuming at.

"We knew it was coming, but we didn't execute the plan we had in place, which makes it doubly irritating.

"There's been an extra edge in the forwards this week and there has to be.

"We're playing against probably the best side in the world and the pack needs to front up big time.

"As a pack New Zealand are the ultimate test. It doesn't get any tougher than this and we were irritated with our performance last week."

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