Six Nations 2016: Jared Payne returns for Ireland after injury

Jared Payne has recovered from a hamstring injury in time to face Italy
Jared Payne has recovered from a hamstring injury in time to face Italy
Six Nations: Ireland v Italy
Venue: Aviva Stadium Date: Saturday, 12 March Kick-off: 13:30 GMT
Coverage: Live on ITV, commentary on BBC Radio & BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app, plus live text commentary.

Ireland's Jared Payne is available for the Six Nations game against Italy at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday after overcoming a hamstring problem.

Payne missed the 21-10 defeat by England at Twickenham but could return to action if coach Joe Schmidt partners him with Robbie Henshaw in midfield.

Schmidt may however opt to retain Stuart McCloskey, who impressed on his debut, despite his side's loss.

Ireland have added uncapped Munster flanker Jack O'Donoghue to their squad.

The 22-year-old will boost Schmidt's back-row options for the forthcoming fixtures against the Italians in Dublin, and against Scotland a week later, with Sean O'Brien sidelined for the rest of the tournament with hamstring trouble.

Ireland, champions for the past two years, are still seeking their first victory in this year's competition.

O'Donoghue adds depth to Ireland's loose forward stocks, with Jordi Murphy and Tommy O'Donnell also in the 35-man training squad, but Ulster's Chris Henry is omitted again.

Date (All times GMT)ProgrammeCoverage
Sat, 12 Mar (13:30 KO)Ireland v ItalyITV and BBC Radio
Sat, 12 Mar (16:00 KO)England v WalesITV and BBC Radio 5 live
Sun, 13 Mar, 14:00 (15:00 KO)Scotland v FranceBBC One and BBC Radio

CJ Stander, Josh van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip and Rhys Ruddock were the four back-row forwards selected for the match squad in Ireland's 21-10 defeat to England at Twickenham on 27 February.

That quartet will feature strongly across Ireland's final two fixtures, with Schmidt's men targeting two wins from their final two games following a draw with Wales and then losses to France and England.

Despite the pressing need for victories, boss Schmidt may yet decide to mix up selection with one eye on long-term development, hence O'Donoghue's addition to the squad.

Connacht prop Finlay Bealham is the only other uncapped member of Ireland's squad ahead of Saturday's clash with the Italians in Dublin.

Speaking at Monday's press conference, Andrew Trimble praised the attributes of his Ulster team-mates Payne and McCloskey.

"Obviously you have got two contrasting styles between Jared and Stu, so it's just what sort of rugby Joe wants to play," said Trimble.

Ireland: Forwards: Finlay Bealham (Connacht), Rory Best (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Ultan Dillane (Connacht), David Foley (Munster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Jack McGrath (Leinster), Jordi Murphy (Leinster), Tommy O'Donnell (Munster), Jack O'Donoghue (Munster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Rhys Ruddock (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), CJ Stander (Munster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster), Nathan White (Connacht).

Backs: Keith Earls (Munster), Craig Gilroy (Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Connacht), Luke Marshall (Ulster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster), Jared Payne (Ulster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Munster).

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