Ireland Head Coach Joe Schmidt has named his team to face South Africa on Saturday evening in the first of Ireland’s three Autumn Internationals in the 2017 Guinness Series, with a 5.30pm kick-off.
As expected Connacht’s Bundi Aki will make his Ireland debut, and he has been named in the starting line-up where he will partner his former Connacht team-mate Robbie Henshaw in the centre. You can go online bookmaker and back Ireland to win by30+ at 33/1 which looks a huge price.
The Auckland, New Zealand-born player joined Connacht in 2014 and now qualifies for the Irish team under rugby’s controversial residency rules. The former Chiefs Super Rugby player was named the Guinness Pro12’s (as it was then named) Player of the Season in Connacht’s title winning year of 2015-16.
Ulster’s Rory Best will captain the side, and is joined by the Leinster duo Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong in the front row, as Jack McGrath picked up a hip injury during training this week.
Iain Henderson and Devon Toner make up the second row, while Seán O’Brien, who will win his 50th Irish cap on Saturday evening, plays flanker with Munster captain Peter O’Mahony, while South African-born Munster player CJ Stander is named at No. 8.
The half-back pairing is as Schmidt would hope, namely Conor Murray at scrum half and Johnny Sexton at fly-half.
Ballynahinch and Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale, who made his Ireland debut last May against the USA, is named on the left wing, with one of Munster’s most consistent players, Andrew Conway, named on the right wing due to the absence of Keith Earls, who is now, according to Joe Schmidt, a doubt to play any part in the November series. Leinster’s Rob Kearney will win his 76th cap when he starts at full back.
One interesting choice among the Ireland replacements named is Munster winger Darren Sweetnam, who will make his international debut should he come off the bench during the opening game in the 2017 Guinness Series.
15. Rob Kearney, 14. Andrew Conway, 13. Robbie Henshaw, 12. Bundee Aki, 11. Jacob Stockdale, 10. Johnny Sexton, 9. Conor Murray.
1. Cian Healy, 2. Rory Best (captain), 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Iain Henderson, 5. Devin Toner,
6. Peter O’Mahony, 7. Seán O’Brien, 8. CJ Stander.
16. Rob Herring, 17. Dave Kilcoyne, 18. John Ryan, 19. James Ryan, 20. Rhys Ruddock, 21. Kieran Marmion, 22. Joey Carbery, 23. Darren Sweetnam.
Irish fans can watch the match live on RTE 2 at 5:30pm on Saturday, let’s hope for a record victory over the Springboks.