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Dublin: 1°C Sunday 7 March 2021

Schmidt: Payne's foot injury was a risk and Earls brings form to 13 shirt

The Ireland head coach says they felt it wasn’t prudent to risk Payne against the French.

Murray Kinsella reports from Celtic Manor

IRELAND COACH JOE Schmidt says Jared Payne’s absence from the team to face France on Sunday is due to a mixture of injury and selection issues.

Keith Earls starts in the 13 shirt in Payne’s stead and Schmidt underlined the fact that the Munster man brings strong form into the meeting with the French.

Keith Earls scores their first try Earls will look to keep Fofana and Bastareaud quiet. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Payne trained fully with Ireland on Wednesday in Newport High School but his bruised foot has swollen up since, meaning he took only a limited part in today’s on-pitch session.

Schmidt has indicated that Ireland felt it wise not to risk Payne’s injury this weekend, with a quarter-final to come.

“It’s a mix of the two,” said Schmidt. “We thought Keith played pretty well last week (against Italy) amidst a pretty flat effort and he played exceptionally well the last time he started in the Millennium Stadium. At the same time, Jared got through training on Wednesday and trained very well.

“But if we put him back into the game on Sunday it could aggravate the foot. There was a bit of swelling post-training on Wednesday.

“We felt it was prudent to leave Jared for another week. With the type of the game that is (the quarter-final), we want to have a fully-fit squad for that.”

The other eye-catching selection in the Ireland XV for Sunday’s clash in the Millennium Stadium is that of Devin Toner ahead of Iain Henderson in the second row, with Schmidt indicating that the quarter-final next weekend is in mind there too.

Jared Payne and Iain Henderson Payne misses out with his foot injury. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It was another really tight call,” said Schmidt. “Dev has been a big game player for us and he gives us a little bit more lineout capability. Iain will add value and, again, it is a case of making sure that we have a few things covered for next week as well.

“We are qualified and we are very keen to qualify at the top of the pool and, at the same time, knowing the reality that regardless of where you finish in the pool, there is a game next week against a side that is incredibly capable.”

Finally, the decision to include Richardt Strauss on the bench ahead of Sean Cronin, as well as Luke Fitzgerald being preferred to Simon Zebo, will spark some debate too.

Schmidt said that both decisions were about the chosen players bringing specific attributes that suit this particular challenge.

“It’s part of what I said about making sure that we do offer opportunity,” said Schmidt. “We have at the same time a balance of what we feel we need on any particular day.

“I think one of the reasons is that we believe the midfield is going to be quite attritional. We think that’s going to be a really tough day at the office and Luke Fitzgerald covers that, as well as the back three, so his versatility is an asset for us there.

Devin Toner Toner is in the second row. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“He’s also played really well for us, Luke. He played really well there against Canada in the first match, so that’s the competitive nature of it. In the back three, there’s a number of guys playing well.

“Tommy missed out on the first game and forced his way back in and was probably one of the better guys on the pitch last week. Dave Kearney’s consistently played well and I feel that there are some very narrow decisions.

“I’m not sure we get them all right, but we try to make them the best with next week in mind.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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