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Published: 13:43 | 10/3/16

Zebo returns for Ireland

Simon Zebo returns to the Ireland starting XV for Ireland's RBS Six Nations clash with Italy on Saturday.

Zebo missed the defeat to England through injury but he has been drafted in to the starting team in place of Rob Kearney, who has been ruled out because of a hamstring problem.

There had been calls for head coach Joe Schmidt to name Jared Payne at full-back but he has opted for Zebo with Payne joining Robbie Henshaw in the centre.

Payne’s return means Stuart McCloskey misses out after an impressive debut last time out. McCloskey misses out on the matchday 23 as Fergus McFadden is named on the bench.

Andrew Trimble and Keith Earls join Zebo in the back three, while Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton once again team up in the half-back line.

Schmidt has resisted the temptation to tinker with the pack, keeping faith in the front row of Jack McGrath, Rory Best and Mike Ross, while Donnacha Ryan and Devin Toner get the nod in the second row.

After an impressive debut against England, Josh van der Flier wins his second cap as he joins CJ Stander and Jamie Heaslip in the back row.

Ireland (XV v Italy): S Zebo; A Trimble, J Payne, R Henshaw, K Earls; J Sexton, C Murray; J McGrath, R Best, M Ross; D Ryan, D Toner; CJ Stander, J van der Flier, J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, N White, U Dillane, R Ruddock, K Marmion, I Madigan, F McFadden.

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