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Payne set to return at 13 for Ireland with Zebo ready to replace Kearney

Joe Schmidt looks likely to avoid sweeping changes to his starting team this weekend.

JARED PAYNE IS set to return to Ireland’s 13 jersey for Saturday’s Six Nations meeting with Italy in Dublin after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Ireland’s Jared Payne Payne is set to return for Ireland at 13 this weekend. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Robbie Henshaw moved to outside centre from his usual slot in the 12 shirt for the defeat to England two weekends ago in Payne’s absence, with in-form Ulsterman Stuart McCloskey making his debut at inside centre.

However, with Joe Schmidt’s men seeking a first win in the 2016 Six Nations it now appears that Henshaw and Payne will resume their tried-and-trusted midfield partnership.

The only other change to Schmidt’s starting XV may be at fullback, as Rob Kearney struggles with a hamstring injury.

Simon Zebo is set to fill in at 15 if Kearney fails to prove his fitness tomorrow morning at Carton House.

Zebo started at fullback in Ireland’s opening round draw with Wales in Kearney’s injury-enforced absence, before the Leinster man returned for the defeats to France and England.

It looks likely that 22-year-old Josh van der Flier will be given another starting chance at openside flanker, having made his debut in London. The Leinster back row grew into that game and Schmidt looks set to hand the Wesley College alumnus another opportunity.

Jamie Heaslip and CJ Stander are set to retain their places in the back row, while Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner may keep Ultan Dillane out of the starting XV for now, even after the Connacht man’s dynamic cameo off the bench in Twickenham.

Captain Rory Best is likely to be joined by Jack McGrath and Mike Ross again in an experienced front row, while Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray are expected to steer the ship from the halfback positions.

A calf injury has seen Eoin Reddan struggle this week, with Kieran Marmion ready to take the bench position behind Murray if the Leinster veteran is ruled out tomorrow. Keith Earls and Andrew Trimble look likely to retain their starting slots on the wings.

Schmidt is scheduled to officially announce his match day 23 at 1.45pm tomorrow.

Possible Ireland XV:

15. Simon Zebo
14. Andrew Trimble
13. Jared Payne
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Keith Earls
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Rory Best (captain)
3. Mike Ross
4. Donnacha Ryan
5. Devin Toner
6. CJ Stander
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jamie Heaslip


Source: The42 Six Nations Show/SoundCloud

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Murray Kinsella

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