Monday 22 January 2018

Payne on track to return for Italy clash as Murphy insists winning is the priority

Payne missed the defeat to England last Saturday with a hamstring injury suffered in Paris: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Payne missed the defeat to England last Saturday with a hamstring injury suffered in Paris: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Jared Payne completed a full session with Ireland's medics and fitness staff yesterday and is expected to return to team training on Monday, putting him in line for an international return against Italy.

The New Zealand-born centre missed the defeat to England last Saturday with the hamstring injury he suffered in Paris, but even an impressive showing from Stuart McCloskey is unlikely to keep the experienced defender out of the side to face the Azzurri.

Conor Murray didn't train yesterday as the 17 players retained by Schmidt at Carton House took on the U-20s.

The rest of the panel have been released to their provinces for Guinness Pro12 duty at the weekend.

The scrum-half is expected to be available for selection, while Ireland have made no additions to the squad that faced England.

With a third successive title gone for Ireland, there are calls to throw in more young guns to the fray for the remaining games against Italy and Scotland after Josh van der Flier, McCloskey and Ultan Dillane all impressed on their debuts, but skills and kicking coach Richie Murphy said Joe Schmidt will select a side designed to secure victories.

"It's great to spread that player base a little bit wider," he said. "They get to understand the things that, at international level, you don't get away with in comparison to maybe Pro12 or even Europe. All three guys really enjoyed their day, getting a first cap, but are very disappointed with the result.

"We will be looking at (new) combinations and trying to look at how we play, but at the end of the day you're judged on whether you win or lose, so winning our last couple of games would be exactly where we want to be."

Irish Independent

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