Ireland sweating over Sexton
Ireland sweating over SextonSHARE
Whilst the All Blacks will be without the injured Dan Carter in Dublin on Sunday, Ireland may miss the services of their own playmaker Jonny Sexton.
The Irish flyhalf was replaced at half-time in the defeat to Australia on Saturday due to a hamstring complaint, and may not be fit for the showdown with the world champions.
The All Blacks have proven performers Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett to call on in Carter's absence, but Ireland do not have the same luxury with the inexperienced pair of Ian Madigan and Paddy Jackson in the wings.
New Ireland coach Joe Schmidt is expected to make a call on Sexton's availability on Tuesday, and admitted that they are fairly thin on back-up as he prepares to face the country of his birth.
"That's a fair big gap in terms of learning and experience and opportunity," Schmidt said.
"They (the All Blacks) will be surrounded by some really experienced players so it is important for us to get the right players around whoever goes into number 10 if it is not Johnny."
Sexton started all three Tests for the British and Irish Lions against Australia this year and was regarded as one of their most influential players in the 2-1 series win.
He steered Ireland to victory over eventual champions Wales in the first game of the Six Nations this year.
However, their campaign capitulated when he injured his hamstring against England. With the 28-year-old sidelined, they failed to win a game from then on.
Schmidt says Sexton's short off-season break followed by 13 games in 13 weeks for his French club Racing Metro was too arduous.
"I think the wear and tear of that game time has consequences, and unfortunately those consequences have fallen in our lap."
Meanwhile, Irish and Lions fullback Rob Kearney suffered a rib injury against the Wallabies but is expected to be fit for Sunday's Test.