Payne set to return for Ireland

Date published: March 8 2016

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Ireland centre Jared Payne is fit and available for selection for Saturday's Six Nations clash with Italy in Dublin.

That is the word from Ireland's team manager Mick Kearney who said Payne has recovered from the hamstring injury which ruled him out of Ireland's loss to England at Twickenham on February 27.

"He is feeling great," said Kearney.

"There are absolutely no issues with Jared."

Payne's availability means Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt will have to decide whether the Ulster stalwart returns to the outside centre position, with Robbie Henshaw at inside centre, or if he keeps Stuart McCloskey in the number 12 jersey with Henshaw on his outside.

Schmidt has included uncapped Munster back-row Jack O'Donoghue and Connacht prop Finlay Bealham in his 35-man squad for the final two rounds of the Six Nations.

Kearney hailed the inclusion of the young duo.

"Jack is in for the first time. He's played over 20 games for Munster this year, he's played over 1200 minutes, I think" said Kearney.

"I think it's great for Jack to get the experience of being involved in the squad for the first time.

"Finlay has played really well for Connacht on both sides of the scrum.

"He's a very big unit, I think he's 120kg and has shown up very well since he came in."

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