Six Nations 2017: Injured Murray ruled out as Ireland draft in Payne and Henderson

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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt explains three changes for England encounter
Six Nations: Ireland v England
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday, 18 March Kick-off: 17:00 GMT
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 live and BBC Radio Ulster, live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Injured Conor Murray has been ruled out of Ireland's Six Nations game against England while Jared Payne and Iain Henderson come into Joe Schmidt's side.

Scrum-half Murray, who sustained a shoulder injury in the 22-9 defeat by Wales, is replaced by Kieran Marmion.

With Rob Kearney ruled out by a knee injury, Ulster's Payne will start at full-back in Dublin on Saturday.

Payne's Ulster team-mate Henderson replaces Devin Toner in the second row, as the Leinster man drops to the bench.

Schmidt has opted not to change his back row despite the team's breakdown struggles at the Principality Stadium.

The Ireland coach's only pack change sees combative Ulster star Henderson replacing six foot 10 Toner at lock in the first time Schmidt has omitted Toner for a frontline Test.

Conor Murray feels the pain after going down injured at the Principality Stadium
Conor Murray sustained a shoulder injury in Ireland's defeat by Wales

Murray fails fitness test

On Tuesday, the Irish management were confident that British & Irish Lions star Murray, 27, would be fit to play against the Grand Slam-chasing English.

However, the Munster man was ruled out in a major blow for the Irish after taking part in contact training on Thursday morning so Connacht's Marmion will earn his 13th cap.

"We fitness-tested him [Murray] today and we felt he wasn't quite 100 per cent," said Schmidt, who now won't be able to rely on Murray's assured kicking game.

"We just felt if we lost him early in the game we would be vulnerable.

"Rob Kearney has got a knee injury and is unavailable to be selected. It probably won't be too long but needs a bit of further investigation."

Schmidt added that Saturday's game would offer Marmion a "fantastic opportunity" but admitted that the Irish would miss Murray's "calm".

Iain Henderson (centre) came on as a replacement against Wales last weekend
Iain Henderson (right) is a more dynamic force in the loose than Toner

Henderson a forceful presence in the loose

Giant second row Toner is a line-out specialist but Ireland struggled with the set-piece in Cardiff so Schmidt has opted to bring Henderson.

The Ulster forward is a more forceful presence in the loose and Schmidt will hope that his physicality can cause difficulties for Eddie Jones' side.

"Iain Henderson came off the bench and did really well last week," added the Ireland coach.

"Between Donnacha Ryan and Dev [Toner] we just wanted to give him a chance to start. Donnacha also did well last week, so it was just trying to get that balance."

In addition to chasing a second successive Grand Slam, victory at the Aviva Stadium will earn England a world-record 19th straight win.

Defeat on Saturday will see Ireland losing to all three home nations rivals in the championship for the first time since 1998.

"There's still an opportunity to finish second which is a massive thing for us," said Schmidt.

"We can still attain the target of second place, so there's still a heck of a lot for us to gain individually and collectively."


Chris Jones, BBC Radio 5 live rugby union reporter

While England have been able to recall two fit-again big guns in Billy Vunipola and Anthony Watson, the loss of Conor Murray is potentially hugely significant for Ireland.

Murray has arguably become Ireland's most important player over the past year or two, with his kicking game one of the best around.

Jared Payne and Iain Henderson coming in does not weaken Ireland - they may well improve the team - but Murray could be sorely missed, especially as his partnership with Johnny Sexton is such a crucial axis for the Irish.

Ireland team: Payne; Earls, Ringrose, Henshaw, Zebo; Sexton, Marmion; McGrath, Best, Furlong; Ryan, Henderson; Stander, O'Brien, Heaslip.

Replacements: N Scannell, Healy, J Ryan, Toner, O'Mahony, L McGrath, Jackson, Conway.

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