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Keith Earls out while Jonny Sexton 'is good to go'

Keith Earls will miss Ireland's opening autumn international clash with Samoa as he continues to battle a knee problem.

But fly half Jonny Sexton has fully recovered from the stiff hip that ruled him out of Racing Metro's shock 9-6 French Top 14 defeat at struggling Biarritz on Saturday.

Ireland team manager Michael Kearney revealed that versatile Munster three-quarter Earls' patellar tendinitis will keep him out of Saturday's Aviva Stadium encounter.

Kearney said Earls is in the minority among Ireland's walking wounded who will not recover in time for new head coach Joe Schmidt's first game at the helm.

Captaincy candidate Paul O'Connell (calf) and flanker Sean O'Brien (ankle) are expected to resume full training on Tuesday, while Rory Best, Declan Fitzpatrick and Mike Ross are all now fully fit. Prop Cian Healy (knee) and Robbie Henshaw (hip) should also be ready in good time for the Samoa game.

Racing coach Laurent Travers cited 28-year-old Sexton's hip complaint as the reason he remained an unused replacement in the defeat to Top 14 bottom club Biarritz.

Kearney waved away any fitness fears around Sexton, though, explaining: "He's fine. He did some kicking practice with David Aldred last Wednesday.

"I think he did about two hours. He had a slight bit of tightness but nothing at all that is going to keep him out of training this week. He's fine. He is good to go.

"Joe (Schmidt) alluded to that last week. Jonny came in last night and was in good form.

"He's certainly under consideration for this week. "

Fresh from signing a new two-year contract with Munster, 34-year-old lock Donncha O'Callaghan has remained with the Ireland squad after being drafted in last week.

Wing Andrew Trimble and flanker Roger Wilson have also been retained by Schmidt this week too.

Former Leinster coach Schmidt has remained coy about the captaincy situation for the autumn so far, but manager Kearney confirmed centre Brian O'Driscoll is fit to fight for both a starting berth and the armband, after recovering fully from a torn calf muscle.

Belfast Telegraph


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