Schmidt pleased to see Ireland emerge from 'arduous' test

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt had insisted after Saturday's 28-17 win over Argentina that Murray was still in the running for a surprise return to take on the All Blacks.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) chief Steve Tew has previously indicated that Schmidt was among the names that the NZR was considering to succeed current coach Steve Hansen, when his contract expires after next year's Rugby World Cup.

Peerless Munster scrum-half Murray was omitted from Ireland's 42-man autumn global squad due to ongoing neck problems and has not played since the summer tour to Australia.

"I'm assuming Conor Murray will play so they've got a good spine, him and Sexton are two of the best players in the world".

"It will really be Conor's call, so I can't answer that until I've chatted to him".

Ireland have made a winning start to the November global series with a 54-7 success over Italy in Chicago and a hard-fought 28-17 victory against Argentina in Dublin.

"It was a real Test match, really arduous", said Schmidt. "We're looking forward to seeing how far we've come in two years and where we are in the world really".

"If I did have some advice for him, I wouldn't be telling him through the media", Hansen began.

'We talked about last week being a big game ... They've built a game that suits them and they've got a lot of depth, they lost O'Brien yesterday and a fella comes on and plays just as good so they're a good strong side.

Flanker Sean O'Brien was the only player ruled out for next week and will require surgery after his comeback from injury following a year on the worldwide sidelines was ended prematurely by a broken arm.

We're really happy with that.

"Kieran Marmion just rolled his ankle a little bit, so we'd be very hopeful he'll be fine".

Gritty Leinster flanker O'Brien has battled serious shoulder and knee issues in the past year, and now faces possibly at least six more weeks on the sidelines.

"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 the challenge the All Blacks present".

"I think Kieran is alright".

Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw will also miss the Tests with New Zealand and the United States after suffering a hamstring strain while warming-up shortly before kick-off against the Pumas last Saturday.

When asked about that memorable day, Hansen was keen to point out that his side are certainly not scarred by the defeat and admitted that Ireland should have beaten New Zealand on a number of occasions prior to Soldier Field.

"For Ireland to win maybe New Zealand have to be average and Ireland have to be very good".

Vanessa Coleman