Payne eager to prove fitness before decider
Jared Payne went some way to proving his fitness last weekend when he returned from a serious kidney injury, but sitting out Ireland's crucial training session on Monday effectively ruled him out of contention for last night's clash in Cardiff.
Getting another 80 minutes under his belt in Ulster's meeting with Zebre this evening will put him right back in the frame for next weekend's visit of England.
The Kiwi has been shifted from outside-centre to full-back. Much of the debate in the last week was centred around Payne forcing his way back into the Ireland starting XV at the expense of Garry Ringrose but the coaches have shown faith in the youngster.
Les Kiss has shuffled his deck, with Stuart Olding named at out-half, while Jacob Stockdale starts at outside centre for the first time. Luke Marshall moves from 13 to 12 to partner Stockdale in midfield.
Ulster won't have any issue seeing off a feeble Zebre outfit, as plenty of eyes focus on Payne.
Ulster - J Payne; C Gilroy, J Stockdale, L Marshall, C Piutau; S Olding, R Pienaar; C Black, R Herring (capt), W Herbst; K Treadwell, A O'Connor; R Diack, C Henry, M Coetzee. Reps: J Andrew, A Warwick, R Ah You, F van der Merwe, C Ross, P Marshall, P Nelson, D Busby.
Zebre - D Berryman; M Bellini, T Boni, T Castello, L Greeff; S Bordoli, C Engelbrecht; A De Marchi, O Fabiani, B Le Roux; Q Geldenhuys (capt), A Bernabo; M Corneilli, G Koegelenberg, F Ruzza. Reps: L Ferraro, B Postiglioni, G Road, J Furno, J Nibert, G Palazzani, M Pratichetti, M Mornas.
REF - I Davies (WRU)
Ulster v Zebre, Live, BBC, 6.05