Ireland v South Africa head-to-head: Stuart McCloskey v Damian de Allende

The big Ulster midfielder gets a late call-up where he will face the experienced former Munster centre

Stuart McCloskey (Ireland)

Position: Centre

Age: 30

Height: 6′4″


Weight: 111 kgs (17st 5bs)

Caps: 6

Points: 15

Why he is so important? Quite simply there is no other centre in Irish rugby that has demonstrated his aptitude in getting his hands free in and through the heavy traffic of tacklers. He provides his teams with positive gainlines and if defenders don’t get a proper hit on him the first time, then won’t be given a second chance. There are also subtleties to his game, good hands and a decent kicking game as befits a former striker in soccer. A big-game temperament is another attribute so he’s unlikely to be fazed by the late call-up.

Quote unquote: “I was quite small in school. I played ‘9′ and ‘10′ until upper sixth, which is our last year, and then became more a 10-12 when I got a bit of a growth spurt at 17 and put on a bit of weight. I was tiny. Before we go on away trips, we make a presentation about ourselves, and I was showing some of the boys pictures of me when I was 16 and they couldn’t believe it. ‘That is not you.’ I was 5ft 6in.”

Damian de Allende (South Africa)

Position: Centre

Age: 30

Height: 6′2″

Weight: 101 kgs (15st 12lbs)

Caps: 65

Points: 45

Why he is so important? He formed a largely impenetrable barrier in the centre of the pitch with Lukhanyo Am. In the absence of his injured midfield buddy he renews another long-standing partnership with Jess Kriel. De Allende brings more than just physical strength to his role – he possesses that too – in that he reads the game well on both sides of the ball. He has the ability to offload in the tackle and it will be interesting to note whether he’s entrusted with more of the playmaking duties. Am was the catalyst for some of South Africa’s best backline attack and someone is going to have to pick up that slack.

Quote unquote: “I [have] lots of happy memories that were made in Munster. I’ve never played at a club where I’ve gone to an away game and there’s been more supporters from the away team. When we played against Wasps and Exeter, it felt like there were more Munster fans there than the home fans so for me that was incredible. I cherished my time here. I really loved it.”

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer