Keith Earls has been ruled out of Ireland's opening November international against Samoa in Dublin on Saturday with a knee injury.

The versatile back has patella tendonitis but British and Irish Lions quintet Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell, Sean O'Brien, Cian Healy and Rory Best are all expected to be available for new Ireland coach Joe Schmidt's first match in charge of the national side.

Ireland team manager Mick Kearney, speaking to reporters at the squad's Carton House training base in Maynooth near Dublin on Monday, also said Lions fly-half Jonathan Sexton, now with French club Racing Metro, had some slight tightness in his calf but should be fit for the match against the South Sea Islanders at Lansdowne Road.

"Thankfully the injury list is a bit shorter than it was last week," Kearney said.

"Keith Earls won't be available for selection this week.

"All the other concerns from last week have cleared up, ie: Mike Ross, Declan Fitzpatrick and Rory Best who all trained at the end of last week."

Kearney was buoyant about the fitness of both O'Driscoll and O'Connell.

"Brian was flying last week and is in great form. He is fit and available for selection.

"Paul O'Connell has made good progress and has met all his markers to date."

Former Leinster coach Schmidt, a New Zealander, has so far refused to say who will captain the side with O'Driscoll, O'Connell, and probably Leinster No8 Jamie Heaslip, who captained the Irish in the last Six Nations under previous coach Declan Kidney, in the mix for the role.

After Samoa, Ireland play Australia before concluding their November campaign against world champions New Zealand -- a team they've still to beat in more than a hundred years of matches with the All Blacks.

 

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