Kearney picked up a gluteal strain in their win over Romania while Payne suffered a bruised foot but, in better news for Ireland, they have been able to call on Robbie Henshaw for the first time in this tournament, with the Connacht centre selected at No.12.
The 22-year-old has trained all week and gets the nod from head coach Joe Schmidt to start in midfield. But he wasn’t fit to play at the start of the week.
Ahead of Ireland’s clash with Italy on Sunday, Eddie O’Sullivan joined Ger on Friday’s Off The Ball to discuss the team selection and the absence of Luke Fitzgerald from the starting line-up. Schmidt is “quietly confident” he’ll be back for the France match.
“He was fit to train fully today and is no problem for next week”.
“Keith in the preseason match showed a real sharpness… it makes for a fairly attacking combination in the backs”.
The following game against France will determine who finishes top of the pool and avoids a likely quarter-final against the All Blacks.
“He’s progressing really well, it was scanned as a precaution and he has bruising and that’s it”, said Schmidt.
Schmidt is aware of his squad’s good fortune.
“We have an opportunity to qualify this weekend and we’re just desperate to do that”.
“Jared makes everyone play better but then Keith (Earls) will bring something different, he’s been in great form and has been electric on the pitch”.
Tommy Bowe also retains his place on the wing with Dave Kearney coming back into the side on the opposite side.
“For a few reason every time we go into camp, for November or Six Nations, there’s always one or two lads who are injured or have a couple of niggles and that gives guys a chance to get in and play well”.
Having played on the right wing and impressed in the opening pool game, the 26-year old switches to the left for the meeting with Italy on Sunday.