Jared Payne returns to Ireland's starting XV for Italy test

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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has restored Jared Payne to his starting XV for the RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy on Saturday.

Payne sat out Ireland's 21-10 defeat to England a fortnight ago but is one of three changes to the Irish backline, with Simon Zebo replacing the injured Rob Kearney at fullback.

The other switch sees Robbie Henshaw move back to inside centre, with Stuart McCloskey dropping out of the matchday 23 altogether.

Ireland are unchanged up front, with hooker Rory Best set to captain the side on the occasion of his 50th championship appearance.

Meanwhile, Best's understudy Sean Cronin should win his 50th cap off the bench, where there is also a place for scrum-half Kieran Marmion and wing Fergus McFadden.

Ireland squad (to play Italy):

Zebo, Trimble, Payne, Henshaw, Earls, Sexton, Murray; McGrath, Best, Ford, Ryan, Toner, Stander, van der Flier, Heaslip.

Replacements: Cronin, Healy, White, Dillane, Ruddock, Marmion, Madigan, McFadden.