Kearney and McFadden give Schmidt selection headache
IRELAND coach Joe Schmidt faces a straight choice between Leinster's Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney to start on the wing against Samoa on Saturday.
Where once there were eight men down, but not out, there is now only Keith Earls ruled out of the first November international, with tendonitis of the patella.
This means Earls, Simon Zebo and Craig Gilroy are all out of the equation due to injury, leaving Schmidt with a straight choice between his former club players.
McFadden must start as favourite to add another cap to the 19th he won when scoring a hat-trick of tries against Canada in June.
He will have strong competition from Kearney, who is on the cusp of making his international debut on foot of the form of his life this season.
The favourite to become Ireland's next captain, Paul O'Connell, must come through a session this morning to prove his fitness for the Samoans.
"Paul has made good progress and met all his markers to date. He is expected to train fully tomorrow," said team manager Mick Kearney.
He was also able to provide reassurance about a tight calf Jonathan Sexton had felt following a two-hour kicking session with Dave Alred last Wednesday.
Sexton arrived back at Carton House on Sunday night from Biarritz to report that he was feeling "the opposite to flat" in response to coach Joe Schmidt's remarks last week about Sexton's fatigue factor.
"He was quite bubbly. He is fine. He is certainly under consideration for this week," said Kearney.
There was pleasant surprise at the decision of Racing Metro coach Laurent Labit to leave Sexton as an unused replacement on the bench in the defeat to Biarritz.
"I think there's relief that he wasn't brought on because I do think, if he had been brought on, Joe would have felt obliged to rest him for this weekend, so that was a positive," said Kearney.
"But the negative is that he had to leave here on Thursday evening at 6 o'clock to fly to Paris and then down to Biarritz in pretty miserable conditions and then had to get back here for Sunday night."
Prop Cian Healy was scheduled to train fully yesterday, while flanker Seán O'Brien and back Robbie Henshaw were in line to train fully this morning.
Outside that, hooker Rory Best and props Mike Ross and Declan Fitzpatrick have already had their training schedules reloaded.
Ulster wing Andrew Trimble, Munster second row Donncha O'Callaghan and Ulster back rower Roger Wilson are back with the squad.
Elsewhere, tight-head prop Martin Moore will remain with Leinster.