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Payne comeback may have to wait with rising star Ringrose set to keep possession of shirt

By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's Jared Payne may have gotten a full 80 minutes under his belt for the province last Friday but it doesn't appear he'll be repeating the trick for Ireland in the Six Nations this week.

Joe Schmidt's side face Wales in Cardiff on Friday night, and Payne has been pushing for a recall after missing three months with a kidney problem.

One day after the men in green beat France in Dublin last time out, Payne made his return to action off the bench for Ulster, backing up that outing with a try-scoring effort in the pouring rain against Treviso last weekend.

Like others who took part in PRO12 games before joining up with the squad, Payne played no part in training at Carton House yesterday with Ireland's forwards coach Simon Easterby not making it seem that the naturalised Kiwi was set to be parachuted straight back into the starting side for the game in the Principality Stadium.

"He felt pretty good on the weekend," said Easterby. "Pretty sharp.

"But he has been a long time out of the game and so we have been pretty comfortable with what we have picked so far and we're happy with the guys who have been playing in those positions.

"For Jared, it is great to have him back around and hopefully we will see him train on Wednesday and then we will take it from there."

While Easterby stressed that there was nothing untoward with Payne not training yesterday, he also made clear that the coaching staff has every faith in Garry Ringrose, the man who has filled the 13 jersey throughout this championship.

Payne's importance to Ireland, especially defensively, has been well documented, including by Ringrose himself.

However, his 22-year-old stand-in has shown, after a tough opening against Scotland in round one, that he has more than enough ability for the rigours of rugby at this level.

"We can all say how impressed we have been with Garry," Easterby added. "He is a young man in years but he certainly looks like he is playing beyond those years in terms of his understanding of the game, his awareness.

"He is an intelligent rugby player, he sees things that a lot of players can't see and guys who have been around a lot longer than him.

"We've known for a long time, as have all of you, that he is something special, and he hasn't done too much wrong."

One change that will be made is in the number 23 jersey.

It was worn by Andrew Trimble against France, the third different Ulster winger to fill the last spot on the team-sheet in three games so far, but the 32-year-old sustained a hand injury against Treviso.

"It takes quality player out of the equation," Easterby said of the loss.

"You want as much depth in those positions as you can and it means that you are now one less to choose from.

"The quality that we have in that position is pretty good at the moment, but taking someone like Andrew out of the equation means that we are losing a quality player.

"Whoever comes into that number 23 jersey has to cover a couple of positions."

Belfast Telegraph


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