If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Andy Farrell has made just one change to Ireland’s starting line-up for next Saturday’s mighty Rugby World Cup Pool B collision against the reigning world champions South Africa in the Stade de France on Saturday night (kick-off 9pm local time/8pm Irish).
As anticipated Jamison Gibson-Park is restored and Conor Murray reverting to the replacements, where Andy Farrell has retained a conventional 5-3 split despite the Springboks opting for seven forwards among their replacements.
Ryan Baird has been called up to the replacements and along with Iain Henderson could feature off the bench in countering the so-called “Bomb Squad”.
The fit again Dan Sheehan is also restored to the bench for what will be his World Cup debut, while Jack Crowley’s versatility has been preferred to Ross Byrne as back-up to Johnny Sexton.
This is the same starting XV as for the third Test in New Zealand, save for outside centre, where Robbie Henshaw played in the enforced absence of Garry Ringrose, and at hooker, where Sheehan started all three Tests, with Ronan Kelleher sidelined.
“A bit of continuity and I think it’s a pretty good side, one that’s suitable to take on the world champions, we hope,” Andy Farrell said.
“Dan Sheehan is obviously fit and raring to go, in fine condition, a world-class hooker, in my opinion and he gets his chance to get his tournament under way.”
On the selection of Jamison Gibson-Park, he said the coaching team just wanted him to “be himself”.
“We want him produce the form that he’s produced for us throughout his time as an Irish international. The pace and skill-set that he brings to our game is something that we all enjoy watching.”
IRELAND v South Africa: Hugo Keenan; Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong; Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan; Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, David Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Ryan Baird, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Robbie Henshaw.