Kearney back at fullback for Ireland vs All Blacks
CHICAGO (AP) Fit-again Rob Kearney was restored at fullback and Jared Payne in the centers by Ireland for the test against New Zealand at Soldier Field on Saturday.
Whether to play Kearney was one of coach Joe Schmidt's key decisions on Thursday. Kearney hurt his hamstring and missed the tour of South Africa in June. Then he hurt knee ligaments in September.
Payne starred at fullback in South Africa, where Ireland beat the Springboks for the first time, but he has been reunited with Robbie Henshaw against the All Blacks.
Also back was flyhalf Jonathan Sexton, who missed the South Africa tour because of a right shoulder injury.
Simon Zebo's better aerial skills pipped Craig Gilroy to the left wing, and Jordi Murphy's greater experience headed off Josh van der Flier for the openside flanker's spot.
Van der Flier was in the reserves, along with the uncapped pair of Leinster flyhalf Joey Carbery and center Garry Ringrose.
Ireland is making its 29th attempt to beat New Zealand for the first time. The All Blacks are on an 18-match winning streak.
Ireland: Rob Kearney, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Simon Zebo, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Jordi Murphy, CJ Stander, Devin Toner, Donnacha Ryan, Tadhg Furlong, Rory Best (captain), Jack McGrath. Reserves: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Josh van der Flier, Kieran Marmion, Joey Carbery, Garry Ringrose.