Rob Kearney a doubt for Ireland's clash with Italy as Payne moves into contention for fullback slot

A hamstring issue kept the Leinster man out of training today.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

IRELAND FULLBACK ROB Kearney has emerged as a doubt for Ireland’s Six Nations meeting against Italy on Saturday.

The Leinster man sat out today’s training session at Carton House with ‘a slight hamstring issue’ and a decision on his involvement this weekend will not be made until Thursday’s team announcement.

Munster flanker Tommy O’Donnell shook off a shoulder stinger to take a full part in today’s session, but Kearney was joined on the sidelines by Eoin Reddan, who is nursing a calf problem.

“We’ll wait until Thursday to reassess them,” scrum coach Greg Feek said at Ireland’s training base today, “because they’re backs we have to wait a bit longer as well.”

Updated 14.35

If head coach Joe Schmidt returns to his tendency of selecting players who have been fit to train all week, he will have the option of recalling Simon Zebo to the role or deploying Jared Payne there to allow Stuart McCloskey and Robbie Henshaw continue their centre partnership.

Jared Payne Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

As ever, Payne was giving little away when he spoke to the media today, but did accept that his provincial form in the 15 jersey was no guarantee he would flourish at international level.

I’d played a lot of 13 in New Zealand, there were a few injuries at Ulster so I was happy to slot in at the back. But ripping it up for UIster is a different from turning it on for a Test match.”

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He added: “From fullback, wing or 13 (Italy) are going to be pretty dangerous. So you have to be on top of your game to handle that and they will really test you. They’ve got some dangerous runners out there.

“I don’t know about shining at 15, you’d have to be pretty tight on your field positioning and defensive work to keep them quiet.”

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Sean Farrell

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