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Payne in bid for Lions fullback berth

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/06/2017 Daniel Gilhooly
Kiwi-born Irish player Jared Payne © PA Kiwi-born Irish player Jared Payne

New Zealander Jared Hayne can push his claim to play fullback in the British and Irish Lions Test team when the tourists face the Highlanders in Dunedin.

Payne will wear No.15 in Tuesday's fourth tour match, his second start after a curtailed run at centre against the Blues.

Fullback test selection is up in the air following a nasty injury suffered by front-runner Stuart Hogg early in the win over the Crusaders.

Hogg ran into team-mate Conor Murray's elbow while chasing a kick, forcing him from the game for concussion testing.

The collision also gashed his cheek, a cut which is being assessed by medical staff and is considered bad enough that it could end the flying Scotsman's tour prematurely.

Gatland could have turned to Welsh specialist fullback Leigh Halfpenny, who has only played once on tour, to face the Highlanders.

Instead, he whistled up adopted Irishman Payne, whose versatility has been proven in 20 Tests and during a six-season first class tenure in New Zealand before joining Ulster in 2011.

Gatland is keen to see a full run from Payne, who lasted 47 minutes against the Blues before exiting with a tight calf.

"We knew in that first game, he wasn't going to get 80 minutes," Gatland said.

"It's just about giving him a little bit longer time on the field. We know that he's versatile."

Gatland's other Test fullback options are also allrounders.

Welshman Liam Williams played on the wing against the Crusaders but it was Anthony Watson who was introduced in that role for 60 minutes when Hogg departed.

Primarily a winger, Watson impressed Gatland although the coach felt he could have run with more conviction at times.

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