Schmidt holds off on injured duo decision

Jared Payne: Has undergonetreatment for a bruised foot.Rob Kearney: Resumed work withthe Irish squad on Wednesday.

Rugby World Cup Pool D

Ireland v Italy

Sunday: Olympic Stadium, 4.45pm
Referee: Jerome Garces
Betting: Ireland 1/20, Italy 10/1, Draw 40/1

Ireland team management last night refused to rule out Jared Payne or Rob Kearney from Sunday’s World Cup Pool D showdown with Italy but the backs look set to be omitted from the matchday squad Joe Schmidt will name this afternoon.

Payne has been unable to train at all this week as he has undergone treatment for a bruised foot suffered in the 44-10 victory over Romania at Wembley last Sunday while Kearney suffered a gluteal strain in the same game and only resumed work with the Irish squad on Wednesday.

Ireland’s 31-man squad enjoyed a day off yesterday but will return to Harlequins’ training base at Surrey Sports Park today with Schmidt set to name his matchday 23 at 1.30pm.

The Ireland head coach does not usually consider players who have sat out training sessions in the lead-up to game day which means neither player is likely to feature.

Simon Zebo could continue at full-back having made a good impression there last weekend, while Wembley man of the match Earls could switch from the left wing to outside centre, where he started in August against Wales in Cardiff. The alternative would be Luke Fitzgerald, who wore the number 13 jersey in the return with Wales in Dublin but whose only World Cup start to date has been at inside centre.

That avenue appears to be shut for the versatile Leinster back as Robbie Henshaw looks set for his first appearance of the tournament having missed the first two games with a hamstring problem.

“Robbie’s the only one of the 31-man squad who hasn’t had any game time yet but he has come through training really, really powerfully this week,” Ireland team manager Mick Kearney said yesterday of Henshaw.

“So no issues with Robbie and available for selection, good to go if selected.” As for Rob Kearney, the manager added: “He didn’t train in the early part of the week but did train (on Wednesday) and we’ll just monitor him after that for the next couple of days.

“Jared has a bruised foot. He hasn’t trained so far this week, he’s just been continuing his rehab with the physios over the last few days and we’ll see how that is (today) before a decision will be made on whether he trains (today).”

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