Major Payne as Ireland lose star centre

Jared Payne (AP)
Jared Payne (AP)

Cardiff - Ireland suffered what skipper Paul O'Connell dubbed a "big loss" on Saturday with news that influential centre Jared Payne had been ruled out of the World Cup with a foot fracture.

The 29-year-old New Zealand-born back had been suffering from nagging foot pains and was not selected for Ireland's Pool D decider against France at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on Sunday.

"Following training on Wednesday, due to continued discomfort, Jared had further scans which revealed a foot fracture," the Irish Rugby Union said in a statement.

"He will be returning to Ireland for specialist opinion and will take no further part in the tournament.

"No decision on a replacement will be made until after Sunday's fixture at the Millennium Stadium."

Payne is a huge loss to the Irish as he had formed an effective partnership with Robbie Henshaw - replacing the legendary duo of Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy - which had seen them play a leading role in Ireland retaining the Six Nations title this year.

O'Connell said Payne's ability to impose his calmness on those around him would be badly missed.

"What he's done in the short time he's been here is incredible. From an Irish context, he's a very calm influence on people.

"He's been brilliant for the backs, very good for Jonny (Sexton) and Robbie Henshaw, a very clever defender and a very clever attacker.

"He's not that old but he had a bit of an elder statesman presence around the place in the way he did things. For the journey he's been on, to get here to be playing in a World Cup for Ireland is disappointing for him and the group."

Assistant coach Greg Feek, like Payne a Kiwi, said the centre "had been great for the environment".

"He's so helpful with everyone in the team, he's a big decision maker in the team, it's one of his strengths," said former All Black prop Feek.

"We feel for him, it was a bit of a moment for him today, it's always sad to see one of your family members in the situation he's in."

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt picked Henshaw and Keith Earls for the match against France, the winner of which will avoid New Zealand in the quarter-finals, instead playing Argentina.

Schmidt justified his selection by outpointing Earls' accomplished showing, while wanting to give Payne another week in order to recover from his foot problem in a bid to balance out the squad with a quarter-final match next week.

Payne represented New Zealand at under-21 level and turned out for the Chiefs, Crusaders and Blues in Super Rugby before moving to Ulster in 2011 and qualifying for Ireland under residency rules.

Assistant coach Feek reiterated that a decision on who to bring into the squad would be taken after Sunday's match.

"There's a few players who've been on the stand-by list," he said non-commitally.

The fourth centre in Schmidt's 31-man squad is Kiwi-born Darren Cave, with the back-three players all offering up viable options in a reshuffle.

Two notable absentees from Schmidt's initial selection were veteran centre D'Arcy, who has won 82 caps in a 16-year career, and the equally experienced and versatile Ulster wing/centre Andrew Trimble.

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