It had been looking increasingly likely that Jared Payne would be forced to miss Saturday's Six Nations clash against England but it would now appear that any hopes of seeing Stuart McCloskey make his Ireland debut may have to be put on hold.
Speaking after training at Carton House today, Simon Easterby confirmed that Payne would be given every opportunity possible to prove his fitness ahead of the weekend with the Ulster back sitting out training today as a result of a hamstring injury. He did however train yesterday and will be given until Thursday to prove his fitness.
Everyone trained fully today apart from Jared Payne. He trained 80-90% yesterday and ran well, we’ll give him until Thursday to prove his fitness. Johnny trained fully, Simon Zebo trained fully. We’re pretty good today, unlike most weeks.
Even before the latest injury update, all eyes were on the midfield pairing. As dependable as Payne is, quite a few fans would love to see the likes of McCloskey in alongside Robbie Henshaw and Easterby did address those possibilities.
We’ve got a few combinations we can look at, Jared has been excellent and in particular he’s been dominant in defence. He took an early bump against France, but he dug in and got us out of trouble. Earlsy’s played there, Luke Marshall too, we’re keen to get Jared back and will give him as much time as possible.
Robbie’s showed himself to be adaptable, he’s player No 15 for Connacht and 13. We have to be adaptable with injuries, with players playing in different positions. We feel comfortable that whatever combination we go with have had enough time, that they can work with the wingers and will be in a good place.
Up until now, Joe Schmidt has tended to opt against starting anyone who hasn't taken part in the vast majority of training sessions in the week before a game. However, Payne's importance to the Schmidt system is such that it's far from certain that he's going to miss out. At Twickenham, that may be absolutely crucial but if Payne does miss out, there's plenty of options open to the Ireland coach that an awful lot of fans would like to see.