Rob Kearney the big fitness worry for Schmidt

By Brendan O’Brien

All remains quiet — so far — on the injury front as Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad turns its attention to the serious business of this November test window.

With players returning from Chicago early yesterday morning, it will be today before the Ireland head coach gets to put the entirety of his squad through its paces ahead of Saturday’s sold-out date with Argentina at the Aviva Stadium.

Rob Kearney remains the main fitness concern.

The full-back injured a shoulder during Leinster’s PRO14 defeat of Benetton 10 days ago and hasn’t played since. Word of his well-being will be eagerly awaited when a member of the coaching team addresses the media today.

The 54-10 defeat of Italy in the US demonstrated again just how much greater the squad’s strength in depth now is but the stocks of ready-made full-backs with Test experience are low if Kearney fails to make it for the Puma engagement.

Will Addison, Joey Carbery, Andrew Conway, Jordan Larmour and Robbie Henshaw have all featured at 15 at various times in their careers but none are ideal options for a variety of reasons even if the wind is currently in Larmour’s sails.

Electric in scoring three tries against Italy, the young Leinster back has limited game time anywhere on the park for club and country and that is even more apparent when it comes to holding down the fort at the back for his country at senior level.

Still, Garry Ringrose believes he has what it takes if it comes to that.

Yeah. He’d say it himself that each game is a learning experience for him because you forget how young he is. So he knows every game is almost bigger than the previous. I’ve no doubt he’d take full advantage of any opportunity he gets but he knows there is stuff to work on.

“He’d be the first person to say it, that’s the type of person he is. He’s someone who provides a huge amount of energy on and off the pitch, the training pitch, and obviously on match days. I don’t think anything would change selection-wise with him.”

Kearney aside, it remains to be seen what news, if any, there is on Conor Murray’s fitness. The Munster scrum-half, who hasn’t played since the summer, ruled himself out of the November tests before training with the national squad just last week.

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