Keith Earls out but Ireland set to name strong team to face Samoa
Last Updated: 04/11/13 4:31pm
Keith Earls: Out of Samoa clash on Saturday
Keith Earls has been ruled out of Ireland's opening autumn international clash with Samoa because of a knee injury.
The Munster star's patellar tendinitis means he will not be available but otherwise Ireland coach Joe Schmidt should have a near-full strength side for Saturday's Aviva Stadium encounter.
Fly-half Jonny Sexton has 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.
Racing coach Laurent Travers cited 28-year-old Sexton's hip complaint as the reason he remained an unused replacement in the surprise loss to Top 14 bottom club Biarritz.
Ireland team manager Michael Kearney said: "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. Joe asked him how he was and he asked Joe what the opposite to 'flat' was.
"He's quite bubbly and is certainly under consideration for this week."
Captaincy candidate Paul O'Connell (calf) and flanker Sea 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.
Former Leinster coach Schmidt is yet to name his captain but centre Brian O'Driscoll is fit to fight for both a starting berth and the armband, after recovering fully from a torn calf muscle.
"Brian was flying last week and is in great form. He is fit and available for selection," he said.
"Paul O'Connell has made good progress and has met all his markers to date. All of the other concerns from last week have cleared up; Rory Best, Declan Fitzpatrick and Mike Ross. They are all back and in full training."