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Henshaw, Zebo get Ireland nod

2015-10-02 15:05
Joe Schmidt

London - Ireland will be without injured backs Rob Kearney and Jared Payne for Sunday's World Cup Pool D clash against Italy but coach Joe Schmidt named an otherwise full-strength team including fit-again centre Robbie Henshaw.

Ireland can qualify for the quarter-finals with a match to spare with a third successive victory and though Kearney trained this week following a minor injury, Schmidt is not risking players ahead of a potential group decider against France.

Simon Zebo, who impressed in last week's 44-10 victory over Romania, fills in for Kearney at fullback while Keith Earls moves in from the wing to partner Henshaw at centre in place of Payne, who has a bruised foot.

"He (Payne) is progressing really well, he's got bruising and that's it and that is getting better by the day," Schmidt told a news conference, adding that he was quietly confident the Ulsterman would be fit for the French game.

"Rob's probably fit to play and trained pretty much fully today so there's no real doubts for him next week."

Tommy Bowe keeps his place on the wing after showing signs of a return to form against Romania.

The increasingly impressive Iain Henderson confirms his status as first-choice partner for captain Paul O'Connell at second row by edging out Devin Toner while Jack McGrath starts in the front row despite Cian Healy's recent return from injury.

Halfbacks Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray, and backrows Sean O'Brien and Peter O'Mahoney all return for the Six Nations champions' first real test of the competition having been fully or partially rested against Romania.

If Ireland win at London's Olympic Stadium on Sunday, they will face a shootout against France with the winners likely to face Argentina in the quarter-finals and avoid world champions New Zealand, the fate that looks certain to face the losers.

Ireland team to play Italy

1 Jack McGrath, 2 Rory Best, 3 Mike Ross, 4 Iain Henderson, 5 Paul O'Connell (captain), 6 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Sean O'Brien, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 9 Conor Murray, 10 Jonny Sexton, 11 Dave Kearney, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 13 Keith Earls, 14 Tommy Bowe, 15 Simon Zebo

Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Nathan White, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Chris Henry, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan 23 Luke Fitzgerald

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