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Jared Payne and Simon Zebo named in Ireland team to face Italy

  • Jared Payne and Simon Zebo will start for Ireland in Saturday’s Six Nations match against Italy
  • Rob Kearney’s hamstring injury means that Zebo will start at fullback
  • Payne has recovered from a hamstring injury sustained against France
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt this afternoon named his team to face Italy on Saturday in the Six Nations.

The clamour had been for Jared Payne to return to the Ireland team in the fullback position after missing the England game, rather than in his usual outside centre slot, but Schmidt has stuck steadfastly to his guns by selecting the Ulsterman at 13.

Schmidt has instead opted for Simon Zebo at fullback in the absence of the hamstrung Rob Kearney, underlining that the Munster man is very much number two in the pecking order in that position.

Payne resumes his centre pairing with Robbie Henshaw as Stuart McCloskey drops out of the squad despite impressing on his debut against England two weeks ago.

Ulster youngster McCloskey misses out with Fergus McFadden’s ability to cover centre and wing earning him a place on the bench.

Otherwise, the team is unchanged from the side which started at Twickenham.

The two-time defending Six Nations champions are still chasing their first win of the campaign after an opening draw with Wales was followed by defeats against France and England.
Ireland team: S Zebo; A Trimble, J Payne, R Henshaw, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best (capt), M Ross; D Ryan, D Toner; CJ Stander, J van der Flier, J Heaslip.
Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, N White, U Dillane, R Ruddock, K Marmion, I Madigan, F McFadden.