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Ireland's Jared Payne drops out of first Lions game through injury

The Ulsterman will miss the opening game of the the tour in New Zealand.

Murray Kinsella reports from Auckland

IRELAND’S JARED PAYNE has dropped out of the Lions’ opening game in New Zealand due to a calf strain.

Jared Payne Payne will miss the tour opener. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The 31-year-old had been set to wear the 23 shirt for Saturday’s clash with the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, but will now miss the early opportunity to get game time in Whangerai.

Payne has been replaced on the Lions’ bench by England back Elliot Daly.

It’s understood that Payne’s calf strain is not serious at this point and the Lions are hopeful that he will feature soon, with fixtures against the Blues and the Crusaders to come next Wednesday and Saturday respectively.

Payne missed a large portion of this season due to a kidney injury he suffered in Ireland’s November Test win over Australia. He was something of a surprise inclusion in the Lions’ squad, but his ability to play centre and fullback was attractive to Warren Gatland and his coaching staff.

The versatile Daly will now get the chance to cover the Lions’ outside backs on Saturday against the NZ Provincial Barbarians, with Ben Te’o and Jonathan Joseph starting in the centres and Stuart Hogg lining out at fullback.

Payne will be hopeful of making a swift recovery from the calf strain in order to convince the Lions coaching staff of his value.

Former Leinster man Te’o will be eager to make a major impact on the opening game of the tour, having impressed over the course of eight caps for England under Eddie Jones.

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“We see him as a 12 at the moment, even though he’s played a lot of rugby with England at 13,” said Gatland of Te’o on Thursday.

“He’s had a lot of impact coming off the bench but he’s a player that’s got a lot more subtleties to his game than people realise, with his ability to offload and get in behind and put players into space.

“We’ve been impressed with the way he’s come into the squad and he’s a point of difference from some of the other players as well.”

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Murray Kinsella

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