McCloskey and Marshall standing by as Jared Payne sits out Ireland training

The Kiwi took almost a full part in training on Monday, but was back in the physio room today.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Updated 14.30

IRELAND CENTRE JARED Payne was the only absentee from training today as Joe Schmidt’s squad build up for Saturday’s meeting with England in Twickenham.

The Ulster back suffered a hamstring injury during the narrow loss to France 10 days ago, but Ireland’s backroom team had hoped that he would train fully today to prove his fitness before Thursday’s training session.

Forwards and defence coach Simon Easterby today said that Payne trained “85-90%” on Monday. However, that effort appears to have set his recovery back somewhat.

“Today he was doing a bit of work with physios. He’ll continue that work and we’ll give him until Thursday to prove his fitness,” Easterby said.

If Payne is unable to prove himself Test match fit on Thursday, then head coach Joe Schmidt will have to decide whether to select a new centre partner for Robbie Henshaw or to hand the number 13 jersey to Keith Earls.

“We have other players that can fill in in that position,” says the forwards coach.

Earlsy has played there and Luke Marshall has played at 13 as well. We are keen to give Jared the opportunity to come through on Thursday and we can make a decision after that on what combinations will best fit if he doesn’t make it.”

Easterby’s response above came after he was asked about the possibility of running Stuart McCloskey in place of Payne place. The uncapped Ulster man has arguably been the form centre in the country this season. However, selecting him at inside centre would require Henshaw to shift out one position, and international coaches have often been reluctant to make more changes and positional tweaks than absolutely necessary.

“Robbie has shown himself to be fairly adaptable. He has played at 15 for Connacht this season and at 12 for us the last couple of games so he is well able to adapt and that’s what we have to be when we have a few injuries.

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Luke Marshall Luke Marshall has excelled at outside centre for Ulster this season while Darren Cave was out injured. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“There is a difference defensively at 13 as opposed to 12, but we would feel comfortable that whatever combination we go with has time to gel. They will work with the wingers really well and they will be in a good place.”

“Jared has been excellent in that position at 13, in attack but really in defence he has been really dominant in that area. He took an early bump against the French, but he dug in really hard to stay on the pitch.”

Originally published: 14.05

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