Andy Farrell has announced his Ireland side to face South Africa in a mouthwatering November test match at a sold out Aviva Stadium. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the Irish side and opportunity knocks for certain players.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan; Robert Baloucoune, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Mack Hansen; Johnny Sexton (capt), Conor Murray; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris
Replacements: Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Jamison Gibson Park, Joey Carbery, Stuart McCloskey
Murray achieves landmark international cap milestone
Conor Murray wins his one hundredth international cap for Ireland. A magnificent milestone for the Munster Rugby scrum-half who will be asked to provide fast ruck ball in the absence of Jamison Gibson Park. An effective kicking game when required will be called for too.
Jamison Gibson Park on the bench which is probably expected given his injury layoff. The hope from Ireland’s perspective is that South Africa defensive setup tires in the final thirty minutes for Gibson Park exploit space around the fringes and create with front foot ball.
How match fit is Hugo Keenan?
Hugo Keenan has played precious little rugby this season with Leinster Rugby. Given the pace of the South African back three named, Keenan will be tested early. The player presumably has impressed in training this week but it is a big ask for the player regardless who you are to deliver a test match level performance.
Baloucoune rewarded with starting berth
Robert Baloucoune will be no stranger to South Africa given his stellar Emerging Ireland tour cameos against Griquas, Pumas and Cheetahs.
His searing pace with ball in hand along will be a key asset and it will be interesting to see his defensive side of play as South Africa may target the prospect early with aerial bombs and early defensive reads. A worthy selection for this test match; on form.
Steady as she goes
This team lineup looks very cohesive given the other players selected. The pack is tried and trusted but will be tested to their limits in physicality and set piece. The back row unit and Tadhg Beirne will be asked to dominate the breakdown and allow Murray and Sexton to launch the back line with quick ruck ball (easier said than done).
This test match will test the squad depth on the bench. The front row of Healy, Herring and Bealham will be tested on set piece. Treadwell and Conan will look to support the second row and back row areas. Conan and Gibson Park potentially look to make an impact in attack as the both sides fatigue in what should be a massively attritional battle early.
In O’Mahony we trust
Andy Farrell probably had Peter O’Mahony as one of the first names on the team sheet. O’Mahony will relish this physical battle given the back row in opposition.
Kolisi, Du Toit and Wiese are superb operators but O’Mahony in set piece and physical battle is outstanding. O’Mahony will look to unsettle Marx on set piece and if he does good things will happen for Ireland.
Where does Carbery play when introduced?
Joey Carbery and Stuart McCloskey coming off the bench in the third quarter. Where will Carbery slot in? Keenan’s injury issues would suggest that Carbery could slot into the full back berth or come on to close the game out to replace Sexton.
However, this game looks like it will be in the melting point right until the final whistle so management and Sexton particularly want to be replaced in this circumstance.
Joey Carbery preferably wants game time at ten but needs must here. Frawley’s appearance for Ireland ‘A’ in RDS on Friday night will be duly noted.
McCloskey the destroyer
McCloskey should be tailor made for this test match when introduced; abrasive ball carrier and his offloading will be gratefully received from the likes of Baloucoune and Hansen who will relish those lung bursting line breaks.
This looks like a spectacular test match in the offing. It setups the RWC 2023 clash perfectly. You know there will be flashpoints and players will look to dominate their individual battle. This is the pick of this weekend’s November test series fixtures.