Schmidt could have Payne back in frame for Wales
Jared Payne will continue his sprint towards full match fitness by turning out for Ulster for a second time in five days in the PRO12 League on Friday night.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt will keep close tabs on Payne as a live option for either centre, where Garry Ringrose currently holds sway, or at full-back, where Rob Kearney is struggling for fitness.
"It was great to see him come back (against Zebre), take some good baby steps. We'll give him more time this week," said Ulster Director of Rugby Les Kiss.
"If he gets himself right and something happens from there, great. At this stage, he's totally with Ulster."
Andrew Trimble has also been released back from Ireland to gather much-needed game time.
Meanwhile, lightning Leinster wing Adam Byrne is content to wait for his time in green.
There have been calls from outside the Carton House bubble for Byrne, a physical specimen, to be given his head on the highest stage.
The reality is that the 22- year-old still has to tidy up elements of his game in order to convince Schmidt he is ready for the next step.
"Obviously, it's the dream to play for your country, and that would be unbelievable," he said.
"Just the way I think, I wouldn't set goals quantitively.
"I don't like setting goals, as in I want to do this, I want to do that. It's more just about kind of the performance."
The kid from Kildare has already had to deal with two broken legs to remove any temptation to plan too far ahead.
These are the kind of setbacks that turn a boy into a man in double-quick time.
It was the cloud of injury and the push to be better from more game time that took his friend Tadhg Beirne to The Scarlets, where the lock has been earning rave reviews.
"It's great to see him doing well over there. He's a really good player," added Byrne.