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Rugby World Cup: Jared Payne is set to deliver a timely lift for Ireland

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's Jared Payne is set to win his fitness battle ahead of Ireland's crunch World Cup clash with France on Sunday.

The outside centre took part in a team walkthrough yesterday and is expected to resume full training today.

The Millennium Stadium meeting will decide who tops Pool D and avoids the All Blacks in the quarter-finals next weekend.

Payne sat out the win over Italy with a bruised foot and had been wearing a protective boot after picking up the injury against Romania.

The 29-year-old has become an important figure for Joe Schmidt's side and will be expected to keep the hard-running French midfield in check.

His return to fitness will, however, create a logjam in the backline with five players vying for just three jerseys.

With Rob Kearney also back at full-back, two of Ulsterman Tommy Bowe, Luke Fitzgerald, Dave Kearney, Simon Zebo and Keith Earls will miss out on the matchday 23.

Schmidt will name his side on Friday lunchtime.

Sean O'Brien, meanwhile, has warned that Ireland must out-smart the French.

He is preparing for a "dangerous" France team who he considers "different" to the one who have failed to beat Ireland in four games since they reached the final of the 2011 World Cup.

"Their history speaks for itself in World Cups," he said. "They're a very dangerous side, a very different team in World Cups.

"You have to be very smart against the French.

"You have to be very physical, you have to have a good-game plan and you have to keep playing for 80 minutes; not cough them up any stupid ball, that is when they are really dangerous."

Belfast Telegraph

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