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Joe Schmidt: 'We haven't trained with Jared at 15'

Simon Zebo was always the head coach’s front-runner to replace Rob Kearney.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

AFTER NAMING HIS starting XV for Saturday’s meeting with the Six Nations’ other winless team, Italy, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said Jared Payne was never a realistic option to replace Rob Kearney at fullback.

Schmidt hopes the Leinster stalwart can return to full training next week after suffering a recurrence of a hamstring issue that has dogged his season. And, if he does, it will be Simon Zebo he has to displace from the last jersey.

Payne returned from injury for Ulster in January and instantly showed his class a fullback. However, Schmidt maintains he is needed more elsewhere.

“We haven’t trained with Jared at 15,” said the Kiwi after a stern response to the positional query.

“It would be a big step to suddenly change that. Rob trained on Monday and Simon has played plenty of fullback for us.

“What we lack with Jared not in midfield has been pretty evident, particularly on the edge with his defensive work. He did a fantastic job against France and it’s an opportunity for him to again control that defensive line.

If we take him out of there, it’s something else we have to find coverage for.”

Last time Ireland met Italy, Keith Earls filled in for the injured Payne and scored the game’s decisive try. This time around he is back in his best position as a wing and says he will reap the benefit of having Payne one slot inside him.

“JP’s been brilliant since he came in,” says Earls, “he’s probably taken a bit of flack during the World Cup, but he’s very important to our back line.

“Typical Kiwi, he’s very calm, performs under pressure. He makes things look easy and makes players around him look good.”

Source: The42 Six Nations Show/SoundCloud


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