Sean O'Brien: Ireland and Lions back row breaks arm in win over Argentina
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt believes Sean O'Brien can recover in time to feature in their Six Nations title defence after the Leinster flanker was injured during the 28-17 win over Argentina.
O'Brien, 31, broke his right arm during the opening half of the match at the Aviva Stadium, having missed much of last season with a shoulder injury.
"He's gutted, I'm gutted for him. I think the team are," said Schmidt.
"Actually, I thought he was just getting into his rhythm in the game."
Schmidt revealed that he had spoken to the British and Irish Lions star after Saturday's game.
"He's already thinking about his rehab and about trying to make sure he gets back. He's got a big target in a year's time [the World Cup] that he wants to get to.
"I think I described him as a stubborn man and I think that ability to bounce back, that resilience that he has, would still give him a chance of getting back in time for toward the end of the year and then into the Six Nations."
Murray 'highly unlikely' to face All Blacks
Schmidt is 'hopeful' that both Kieran Marmion and Bundee Aki will recover from knocks that they picked up against the Pumas but admitted it was "highly unlikely" Conor Murray will be fit to face New Zealand on Saturday, although he plans to speak with the scrum-half on Sunday.
Robbie Henshaw, an 11th hour withdrawal from the Argentina game with a hamstring strain, will be assessed on Monday but Schmidt is optimistic the centre could be available for the visit of the All Blacks while Rob Kearney and Garry Ringrose should return to full training this week.
The unfortunate injury to O'Brien still leaves Schmidt facing a back row selection dilemma as his replacement Dan Leavy produced an all-action performance after his introduction.
"The seven loose forwards who are in the squad - or the seven and a half if you count Tadhg Beirne as a second row and a back row - it's an uncomfortable decision that is going to have to be made but it does add comfort knowing that Dan, on the back of a couple of hit outs, has slotted straight back in as well as he did," added Schmidt.
Josh van der Flier and Rhys Ruddock, who both started against Italy earlier this month, and Ulster's Jordi Murphy, who scored a try in Ireland's famous victory over the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016 will be vying with Leavy for the number seven jersey but it is not a decision Schmidt is in a hurry to make.
"I'll get the microscope out and have a decent look and make some decisions on the back of that," added the New Zealander.
"We'll also be looking at how those guys recover and how they hit the ground running on Tuesday at least to put themselves into the mix on the back of a good training to get selected on Thursday."
Irish aim for first home win over All Blacks
The visit of New Zealand next weekend pits the Six Nations champions and the World Champions against one another and will also be the fourth time Schmidt has faced his homeland in a Test match.
A last-gasp converted try saw the All Blacks snatch a 24-22 victory in Dublin in 2013 before Schmidt's side finally beat the three-time World Cup winners 40-29 in Chicago but, a fortnight later, New Zealand came to Dublin looking for revenge and won a bitter, bruising contest 21-9.
The Ireland coach, however, insists that it will be the players who must grasp the opportunity to tilt the scales back in their favour.
"It's so little to do with me. I step back on a Thursday and it's really player driven and I'd be delighted if we could be as competitive as we were the last three times we played them," he said.
"The fact that the points differential between us is so narrow in those three games.
"There was the one in 2013 - I am still bleeding from that, it hurts when it happens - and while Chicago was a great band aid - in fact it was a full bandage, it was great - but two weeks later we were very much in the game and it was very tough, as physical as it was against Argentina it was a step up last time they were in town.
"So the challenge for our guys is to step up and I'm confident that they can and at the same time I'm well aware of what kind of challenge the All Blacks present."