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'Tough to lose one of the family': Ireland squad feel for Payne but must move on instantly
Injury to the Ulster man made for a funereal atmosphere immediately after today’s Captain’s Run in Cardiff.

Sean Farrell reports from the Millennium Stadium

WHEN YOU GET inside the enormous structure that dominates Cardiff’s city centre it feels like no other stadium we’ve been to.

By 4pm tomorrow, it will be a chamber full of noise: a clanging public address system will blast any music they think might get the early arrivals for the game into a mad frenzy. The early arrivals will do their best to ignore it, and applaud the teams on their way in and out of pre-match drills.

This morning, however, with the roof freshly shut, without the incoming 74,000 people and with the speakers turned off, standing pitchside feels like standing in front of an alter within an enormous cathedral.

When the players got back in from their light run-out, the reverential theme continued, because the 31-man squad that left Ireland last month has been reduced by one.

“He’s a big loss,” captain Paul O’Connell said of the news that Jared Payne’s foot injury would keep him out for the rest of the tournament.

“What he’s done in the short time he’s played for Ireland has been incredible. He’s very calm on the pitch, he’ll tell you exactly what to do in one short sentence.

“He’s not that old, but he’s had an elder statesman attitude about how he goes about things. For the journey he’s been on to get here, it’s hugely disappointing for the group when it was announced this morning.”

Scrum coach Greg Feek attempted to outline the timeline of an injury that had Payne on crutches 10 days ago, but in contention to play until yesterday, saying the confirmation of the fracture came through yesterday evening after a fresh scan.

There was a bit of a moment for him today,” Feek said with a typical Kiwi  lower lip keeping any hint of behind-the-scenes emotion at bay.

Paul O'Connell Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s always tough to lose one of your family members like that.

“You try to include him and we wanted to try to get him out there this week, but it was also about managing that process while we were finding out how he was.”

Between the echo chamber around the field and the sombre tones in the bowels of the Millennium there was a funereal tone around the session.

“We all felt that from chatting to him that he felt very positive about it,” said Tommy Bowe, Payne’s Ulster team-mate, “but he went for a scan yesterday and I think that was the final nail in the coffin unfortunately.

Tommy Bowe Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

“It was a bit of a shock to everybody when we heard this morning and disappointed. Listen, we’re gutted for him.

“It’s your worst fear. You put in so much effort, so much training and to get to this stage where these are the real big matches coming up, to miss out on that is disappointing for him.”

It’s a pretty big blow alright to the squad. He’s a very popular man around the squad. He’s been one of our most consistent players over the last couple of years. He’s been playing some outstanding rugby.

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“Of course losing a player like that is going to be a massive blow to any squad. It’s disappointing news for us but we know that it’s the nature of the competition and there’s always going to be injuries.”

Bowe was speaking with a slightly flushed face and quick rate of breathing after stepping off the training field. The wing is an upbeat character at heart, so the more he spoke the more he moved to put Payne’s misfortune out of the picture.

Keith Earls

Bowe, along with Dave Kearney, Robbie Henshaw and Payne’s replacement in the 13 jersey Keith Earls have work to do.

“I suppose we’ve been very fortunate in only losing one player compared to some teams out there. We’re all very disappointed when we heard the news that his World Cup was over. But we need to focus on the match tomorrow and move on. We know we have plenty of strength and depth in the squad that can fill in those positions.”

“ Jared’s fully aware (that everyone has to move on). He wished us all the best this morning. You can see it in his face he’s very disappointed, we’re all disappointed for him. He knows what we’ve got ahead of us. We all do, so it’s about concentrating on the game tomorrow.”

It’s an injury, not a funeral. C’est la vie.

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