Ireland refuse to rule Jared Payne out for Twickenham despite sitting out training again
Jared Payne will be given the every opportunity to prove his fitness for Ireland’s key Six Nations clash against England on Saturday.
The New Zealand-born centre did not train with the squad today as a result of his hamstring injury, but did come through most of yesterday’s session at Carton House and will be given a fitness test on Thursday to see if he can feature at Twickenham.
Forwards coach Simon Easterby said that he and Joe Schmidt are looking at a number of options in the centre as a contingency if Payne doesn’t make it back, but it is clear that the Ulster man will start if fit.
Keith Earls stood in for the 30-year-old when he got injured during the World Cup, while Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall are contenders to partner Robbie Henshaw who can shift out one if Schmidt so chooses.
Easterby confirmed that Johnny Sexton is fully available for selection ahead of game three of the World Cup.
“Everyone trained fully today apart from Jared Payne. He trained 80-90% yesterday and ran well, we’ll give him until Thursday to prove his fitness,” he said.
“Johnny trained fully, Simon Zebo trained fully. We’re pretty good today, unlike most weeks.
“We’ve got a few combinations we can look at, Jared has been excellent and in particular he’s been dominant in defence. He took an early bump against France, but he dug in and got us out of trouble.
“Earlsy’s played there, Luke Marshall too, we’re keen to get Jared back and will give him as much time as possible.
“Robbie’s showed himself to be adaptable, he’s player No 15 for Connacht and 13. We have to be adaptable with injuries, with players playing in different positions. We feel comfortable that whatever combination we go with have had enough time, that they can work with the wingers and will be in a good place.”
Easterby refused to be drawn into a war of words with England coach Eddie Jones who has been heavily critical of a perceived over-reliance on kicking the ball.
“There’s temptation to be drawn into something there, to say something about any team that he has coached but we have to focus. Characters like that are good for the game, we’ll see come Saturday night how much of that comes through,” Easterby said.