Paddy Jackson back in frame as injury strikes Jonny Sexton
Ulster's Paddy Jackson is on All Blacks alert as injury again threatens to KO his experienced Ireland rival Jonny Sexton.
Sexton will learn the extent of his hamstring injury in Saturday's defeat by the Aussies today, and coach Joe Schmidt has given his out-half until Friday to return to training and prove he can face New Zealand at the Aviva on Sunday. The prognosis for Sexton does not look good.
In Sexton's absence, Schmidt started with Paddy Jackson against Samoa, highlighting his superior game-time to Ian Madigan, who looked rusty when he came off the bench in Saturday's 32-15 loss.
Jackson justified his selection in the 40-9 win over Samoa, kicking 15 points from three penalties and three conversions.
Taking on the All Blacks would be a big step up in his learning process after just six caps but the assuredness of his kicking, bringing his Ulster form into the green jersey, has been publicly noted by the hard to impress Schmidt.
Schmidt also admitted Ireland can ill afford to gamble on the 28-year-old Racing Metro playmaker Sexton's availability.
Schmidt explained: "I guess on Monday we'll find out the degree of his injury and then that will either make a decision easy for us, because it looks good or it doesn't look good.
"If it's halfway in between, then certainly my expectation would be that he would have to train on Friday.
"He hasn't really spent that much time with us training, he had a little hip-flexor issue plus we left him to rest against Samoa just because of the attritional game time he had already accumulated.
"And I think the wear and tear of that game time has consequences, and unfortunately those consequences have fallen in our lap."
The Ireland management are more positive in their assessment of Rob Kearney, who suffered a rib injury towards the end of the Australia game.
New Zealand are one win away from the perfect season after seeing off England 30-22 at Twickenham on Saturday.
The All Blacks will be desperate to complete a grand slam northern hemisphere tour in Dublin on Sunday weekend and rubberstamp a 100 per cent year to boot.
Steve Hansen's side may have to do without 100-cap fly-half Dan Carter though, who suffered a leg injury of his own in London.
New Zealand's 24-year-old fly-half understudy Aaron Cruden already boasts 27 caps, in contrast to Ireland's out-half back-ups Paddy Jackson and Ian Madigan who have a combined cap total of 11.
Schmidt admitted: "That's a very big gap in terms of learning, experience and opportunity to maybe make some errors and learn from them. And they will be surrounded by some experienced players.So it's important for us to try to get the right players around the 10 if it's not Jonny."