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The Likely Ireland Team To Play Italy Will Make Many Bash Their Heads Off The Wall

The Likely Ireland Team To Play Italy Will Make Many Bash Their Heads Off The Wall

Rob Kearney more than likely will not feature when Joe Schmidt tomorrow names the Ireland team to face Italy on Saturday.

The Leinster fullback has a hamstring injury, the same muscle which ruled him out of the opening game of the tournament against Wales.

Simon Zebo took Kearney's place in the side that day and looks to do so again against the Italians at Lansdowne Road. With that selection there is no issue. Zebo was one of Ireland's main attacking forces against Wales.

The other option for fullback was Jared Payne. The Ulster player has returned to fitness and is available to Joe Schmidt. According to Ruaidhri O'Connor of the Irish Independent, Payne will not feature at fullback but instead at outside centre.

That means Joe Schmidt will probably drop Stuart McCloskey and Robbie Henshaw will revert to inside centre.

In the loss to England, the centre partnership fo McCloskey and Henshaw was one of the main positives. The combo were named in the Official Six Nations Team of Week 3.

It was a dual performance which offered many real optimism for the future of the Irish team - Henshaw is just 22 and McCloskey 23.

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The selection of Jared Payne would be a conservative one. Joe Schmidt is undoubtedly under pressure to win games in this Six Nations but Italy - at home - is one where such a negative approach should be unnecessary.

According to O'Connor's information, the other debutant from the England game - Josh Van der Flier - looks likely to keep his place in the team. While Ultan Dillane, who made a major impact off the bench, will likely be kept in reserve to do so once again.

If the rest of the team to face Italy remains unchanged from the game against England, this could be the starting lineup.

Simon Zebo, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Keith Earls, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Jack McGrath, Rory Best, Mike Ross, Donnacha Ryan, Devin Toner, CJ Stander, Josh Van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip

Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

PJ Browne
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