Ireland centre Jared Payne unlikely to face Wales
Jared Payne is unlikely to feature in Ireland's crucial RBS 6 Nations clash in Wales on Friday after missing training on Monday.
Ulster centre Payne has made an unlikely return to the Ireland squad for the Six Nations' final two rounds, after fighting back from long-term kidney damage suffered against Australia in November.
The 31-year-old made a successful comeback in Ulster's 19-7 win over Treviso on Friday night, but missed Ireland's session on Monday owing to new bruising.
Forwards coach Simon Easterby insisted Ireland have been impressed with Leinster's Garry Ringrose, who is now expected to retain his place at outside centre.
"Jared Payne, Tiernan O'Halloran, Dan Leavy and Joey Carbery all stepped out of training today with a few bumps and bruises," said Ireland forwards coach Easterby.
"Jared felt pretty good on the weekend, pretty sharp. But he has been a long time out of the game.
"We have been pretty comfortable with what we have picked so far and we're happy with the guys who have been playing in those positions.
"For Jared it is great to have him back around and hopefully we will see him train on Wednesday and then we will take it from there.
"Jared has bruising, it's nothing worse than that. He has been out for a long time and some players will take a little bit more to recover from games, especially when they have been out for so long."
Full-back Rob Kearney completed Monday's session with no ill effects, so should now be ready to start in Wales after shaking off a hip complaint.
Payne has operated as Ireland's backline defensive coordinator under coach Joe Schmidt, but suffered a nasty kidney problem in the 27-24 win over Australia in the autumn.
The New Zealand-born midfielder had initially been expected to miss the entire Six Nations, but has fought back into Ireland's squad ahead of the closing two rounds.
Ireland must win in Wales to keep their trophy chances alive, and a victory would most likely tee up a title decider against England in Dublin on Saturday, March 18.
Leinster young gun Ringrose has continued to build his Test match confidence across the Six Nations, with Easterby backing the 22-year-old to shine again in Cardiff.
"We can all say how impressed we have been with Garry," said Easterby.
"He is a young man in years but he certainly looks like he is playing beyond those years in terms of his understanding of the game, his awareness.
"He is an intelligent rugby player, he sees things that a lot of players can't see and guys who have been around a lot longer than him.
"We've known for a long time, as have all of you, that he is something special and he hasn't done too much wrong."
Ireland will ultimately make the call on whether the Principality Stadium roof remains open or closed for Friday's encounter.
Wales want all their home matches played in an enclosed arena, but the visitors must agree for the roof to be shut.
Easterby insisted Ireland are yet to engage in dialogue with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), but called on Ireland not to lose focus on the contest.
"We haven't been contacted yet by the WRU so that is something that we haven't really discussed too much," said Easterby.
"Later in the week, by Wednesday, by that point there will be some correspondence between the WRU and ourselves and we will make that call.
"W e have had it closed and open when we have played Wales in the last few years. It is important that it is not a distraction."