Joe Schmidt named close to his strongest possible team for the clash with Italy on Sunday in the Olympic Stadium. Two usual starters that aren't involved are Rob Kearney and Jared Payne through injury.
Both players were ruled out before the team was named, Payne with a bruised foot, and Rob Kearney suffering from a glute strain.
In his team selection press conference, Schmidt gave an update on the pair, suggesting that Kearney would have been fit enough to play this weekend.
Rob's fit to play, but he wasn't fit at the start of the week.
It's the Schmidt way to not include players unless they've had a full week of training under their belt, and Schmidt suggested that they were playing it safe with a soft muscle injury. He also mentioned that Kearney trained fully on Friday, and should be ready to face France in the final pool D game that will decide who tops the pool.
After Jared Payne was spotted on crutches on Wednesday, he was always unlikely to face Italy. Schmidt said that he is 'quietly confident' that Payne will be ready to play against France, but will wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to see the Ulster back back in training.
He's progressing well. It's just bruising, with some inflammation and discomfort. He's running and jogging now. He probably wouldn't be fit for Sunday so there was no point in trying to rush him through. I'd be quietly confident of him being ready for France.
When asked if that meant an exemption would be made for Payne because he wouldn't have a full week of training under his belt, Schmidt admitted that he hadn't thought that far ahead and his focus was on qualifying for the quarterfinals with a win over Italy.
Johnny Sexton underlined the importance of Payne, after a week where the centre received a lot of criticism.
With Jared, he makes everyone else better. He's a great communicator - he makes my job easier. He makes those outside him jobs easier with good passing and great decisions. He's got a good kicking game, I know he had one blocked down against Canada, but it was the right decision to kick one through.
See Also: Joe Schmidt Names Strong Starting Lineup For Italy Clash
Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE