Tuesday 20 February 2018

Jared Payne 'fully available' for selection against Italy

Jared Payne: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Jared Payne: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Ruaidhri O’Connor

Jared Payne is set to return to the Ireland team for Saturday’s penultimate Six Nations game against Italy after coming through training today.

The New Zealander injured his hamstring against France and missed the defeat to England, but after training away from the squad last week he was set to rejoin the on-pitch session at Carton House this afternoon.

Joe Schmidt’s main injury concern ahead of the clash with the Azzurri is Tommy O’Donnell who suffered a stinger while playing for Munster against Dragons on Saturday. He could return to training tomorrow morning, but his absence from today’s session puts his chances of supplanting Josh van der Flier for the No 7 shirt in doubt.

The coach added O’Donnell’s provincial colleague Jack O’Donoghue to his panel, but there is no place for the likes of Garry Ringrose or Stuart Olding who had been tipped for a late call-up as the national team try to spread their base.

“Tommy O’Donnell stinger at the weekend. There is a good chance that he will train tomorrow,” Ireland manager Mick Kearney said.

“Jared is good. He continued to rehab all through last week and is expected to be fully available for selection. Absolutely no issues with Jared.”

So, O’Donoghue and Connacht’s Finlay Bealham, who remains in the squad after playing for the Westerners on Friday night, are the only uncapped players in the squad ahead of the remaining games against Italy and Scotland.

Schmidt has already handed debuts to CJ Stander, Stuart McCloskey, van der Flier and Ultan Dillane in this campaign and Andrew Trimble says their introduction, and in particular the trio of first caps in Twickenham last week, has given the squad a lift.

“All three of them gave a good account of themselves. It’s a good buzz to have a combination of a few experienced players with one or two young fellas coming in,” he said.

“Big Stu’, Josh and Ultan all gave really good accounts of themselves and all of a sudden we have three new internationals there who are really going hard at it. All at the top of their game. It just creates more camaraderie, competition for places and that’s a healthy environment to be in.”

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