DUBLIN (Reuters) - Rob Kearney and Garry Ringrose returned to full training with Ireland on Tuesday, putting themselves in the frame to face New Zealand this weekend in what promises to be a mouthwatering clash between the world's two top-ranked sides.
Their fellow backs Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion, who picked up ankle injuries in last Saturday’s laboured 28-17 win against Argentina, are also fit - offering some consolation after key players Robbie Henshaw, Conor Murray, and Sean O’Brien were ruled out.
"We had a full session and obviously we’ll take stock of that over the next 24 hours but they’re on the right track," Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell said of centre Aki and scrum-half Marmion.
Injury had kept Kearney and Ringrose out of contention for the Argentina game, though both had returned to training by the time coach Joe Schmidt named his team last Thursday.
Fullback Kearney, who hurt his shoulder last month, is expected to be named in Thursday's starting line-up to face the world champions in Dublin on Saturday.
"Anyone would be happy to have Rob Kearney in the squad," Farrell told a news conference.
"The experience alone of what he has been through and obviously the experience of playing against New Zealand before, he’s key to any squad.
"They (the All Blacks) don’t just kick, they kick very accurately and kick on the front foot. Their ability to get in the air and win the space for the ball is right up there, so, Rob, I think we all know, he’s outstanding in that area."
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson, editing by John Stonestreet)