Rob Kearney and Jared Payne ruled out

Simon Zebo to start at fullback with Robbie Henshaw to finally see some action

Rob Kearney and Jared Payne have failed to prove their fitness for Ireland's third Pool D match against Italy at the Olympic stadium on Sunday. Kearney has a glute strain while Payne has been nursing a bruised foot.

That means Simon Zebo, who went back home to Cork on compassionate leave earlier this week to be at his grandfather's funeral, will wear 15 for his 21st cap but only sixth start at fullback.

Robbie Henshaw's World Cup is expected to finally get underway with the 22-year-old shaking off a hamstring strain to start in the centre.

Iain Henderson is also poised to come back into the team.


The seriousness of Payne’s injury remains unclear and his absence will means Joe Schmidt’s first choice midfield - Payne and Henshaw - has not run together in a full blooded Test match since Scotland at Murrayfield last March.

Schmidt will name an otherwise full strength starting XV at lunch-time on Friday.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent