Kearney doubt for Scots clash as injuries hit Schmidt's plans
Joe Schmidt has been hit with a fresh injury blow after Rob Kearney suffered a calf injury in training and is set to miss Ireland's World Cup opener against Scotland on Sunday.
If he is ruled out of the fixture overnight, the full-back will join Robbie Henshaw on the sidelines with Keith Earls in a race to be fit as he looks to overcome his knee tendonitis issue in time for Friday's team announcement.
Henshaw suffered a hamstring injury in training on Sunday and assistant coach Greg Feek said management were "reasonably positive" about his progress. He added that the Leinster centre could yet feature against Japan on Friday week.
That would appear to be on the optimistic side and the early word around Kearney's issue would throw doubt on his ability to be fit in time for the second fixture of the tournament in Shizuoka.
Earls sat out training yesterday, leaving outside backs very thin on the ground. If the Munster man cannot prove his fitness, Schmidt is facing into the Scotland game with six fit backs for six positions.
Andrew Conway would likely come on to the wing to replace Earls, while he would rival Jordan Larmour for Kearney's spot if it becomes available. Joey Carbery is another option there after he returned to training after his ankle surgery limited his pre-season involvement.
Chris Farrell and Garry Ringrose are vying for the opportunity to start alongside Bundee Aki in the centre in Henshaw's absence, with Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray set to start at half-back.
Feek said everybody apart from Earls and Henshaw trained at Ichihara Suporeku Park in Ichihara yesterday, although news of Kearney's injury emerged subsequently on independent.ie. Ireland were due to give an update this morning and they travel to Yokohama tomorrow.
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