/ Six Nations 2016

Ireland sweat over Payne fitness for England face-off

Updated: Monday, 22 Feb 2016 15:11 | Comments

Jared Payne is in a fitness battle to make Saturday's clash against England
Jared Payne is in a fitness battle to make Saturday's clash against England

Ireland team manager Michael Kearney has given the green light for Johnny Sexton, Simon Zebo and Keith Earls to do battle at Twickenham on Saturday - but Jared Payne's availability hangs in the balance as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

Dave Foley, Jordi Murphy and Craig Gilroy were summoned on Monday to replace injured trio Mike McCarthy, Sean O'Brien and Dave Kearney - all casualties of the bruising encounter in Paris.

Cian Healy and Mike Ross also return to the squad after overcoming their setbacks but Joe Schmidt's injury list still makes for grim reading.

With the likes of Tommy Bowe, Iain Henderson, Luke Fitzgerald, Peter O’Mahony, and Chris Henry all on the long-term absentee list, Schmidt will be lighting a candle for the health of his remaining front liners.

Kearney talked up the buoyant mood of the squad, but admitted there's no guarantees Ulster centre Payne will make it. 

"There’s a massive incentive to go over there and perform and hopefully get the win." - Michael Kearney

“Jared Payne is continuing his rehab and the hope is he will train on Tuesday," he told RTÉ Sport.

"It's a bit of a wait and see for him. I'd say the expectation is that he will train fully tomorrow, so we'll know a little more by this time tomorrow.

"Johnny Sexton rolled his ankle last Friday during the open session in Mullingar and sat out the remainder of the session as a precaution, however he will train fully [on Monday].

"Simon Zebo’s knee has settled down really well and he will train [on Monday]. There’s a couple of absentees then from the squad; Tadgh Furlong and Rob Herring both have thigh muscle injuries so they will not be joining up with the squad this week.

“Keith [Earls] is in great shape. He trained fully in Mullingar and is available for selection. Mike Ross and Cian Healy have both participated in the last two Leinster games and came into camp last night both in great form and both fit and available for selection as well."

Ireland last tasted victory at Twickenham in 2010, when Tommy Bowe memorably scored the decisive try in a 20-16 success.

Kearney acknowledged most the class of 2016 don't know what it's like to turn England over on their own patch, but said there should be enormous motivation for them to put that statistic right this weekend.

“There’s always a lot to play for against England, it is a huge match. For Irish people I think all over the world but in London in particular, it’s the one match of the year they really look forward to. It’s the match the players lok forward to as well.

“Some of them have won in England, the last time we won in Twickenham was 2010, I think four or five of the players participated in that particular match but that leaves 15 to 17 to 18 out of the 23-man squad that haven’t actually recorded a win over in Twickenham so there’s a massive incentive to go over there and perform and hopefully get the win.

“The opening performance against Wales was really good... Wales are a really really strong team. Against France it’s fair to say the players were really disappointed with the result. We controlled the game for the first sixty minutes or so and that scrum cost us dearly towards the end of the game. We did feel we were the better team on the day.

“They’re in a positive, positive mood. They’ve trained really well, and while aspects of the performance against France were disappointing there were still a lot of things that were very good. If we can build on those things we can go to Twickenham with a certain level of confidence.”

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