Earls, Cave or Fitzgerald? Who would you like to see partner Robbie Henshaw 6 years ago

Earls, Cave or Fitzgerald? Who would you like to see partner Robbie Henshaw

Jared Payne is hefting around Guildford in a moon boot. This is either an elaborate ruse by Joe Schmidt or the Kiwi is going to miss this Sunday's game against Italy.

Payne bruised his foot in training, earlier this week, and may not be risked at this early stage in the tournament.

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As Schmidt reasoned, about Robbie Henshaw, last week, there is a time to take risks and this is not the time. The Italy game is hugely important in terms of our World Cup chances but it is not a must-win.

Schmidt will be aggrieved by Payne's foot injury. The Ulster player and Henshaw are his preferred midfield and they have only played once together - in the 16-10 loss to Wales - since the Six Nations.

The Ireland coach may forgo his usually stringent selection policy - players must feature in training during the early part of the week - to give Payne every chance possible of making the starting line-up.

Were Payne to miss out, there are a host of options the coaching staff can go for.

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Assuming Henshaw gets the start at inside centre, Keith Earls, Darren Cave and Luke Fitzgerald are in contention for the No.13 slot.

Keith Earls

The Munster winger has long coveted the outside centre role, and has played 13 of his 43 Tests in that position.

There was talk of the in-form Earls being rested, or benched, ahead of the France game but Payne's injury may see him drafted in to add some spark to the Irish midfield.

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Earls try (2)

Earls tore Romania apart, last Sunday, and was in flying form in the World Cup opener. His ability to beat his man in tight spaces - Gerry Thornley jokes that he could step you in a telephone box - could unlock a stubborn defence.

Scored a try in the warm-up win over Wales, in Cardiff, and was named man-of-the-match.

Darren Cave

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It seemed that Cave was travelling to England with the sole purpose of playing Romania and holding tackle shields in training.

The Ulster centre, who has played most of his career at 13, shone [and scored a try] in the warm-up win over Wales and looked good in the final 30 minutes of the Romanian victory. He played that final half hour at outside centre.

Would add nuance and smart running lines to Henshaw's hard-charging, abrasive skills.

Luke Fitzgerald

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Another player that has always wanted to play outside centre but who forged a career for himself on the wing.

Fitzgerald came into the World Cup in good form but the outstanding performances of the likes of Earls, Dave Kearney and Simon Zebo have put him in the shade somewhat.

He played 12 for the opening win over Canada and would relish another chance to partner Henshaw [the first was in the warm-up loss to Wales, in Dublin].

Was excellent at the breakdown against the Canadians and his pace, and awareness, in midfield would suit this Italian match-up.

Who would you go with?