Jamison Gibson-Park ruled out as Andy Farrell names Ireland squad for summer tour of South Africa

Jack Conan misses out for personal reasons, as three uncapped players are in the squad

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Few will quibble with the three uncapped players Andy Farrell has included in his 35-man squad to travel to South Africa for the two July Test matches against the Springboks in Pretoria and Durban.

Sam Prendergast, Jamie Osborne and Cormac Izuchukwu all make the plane with two regular players, Jack Conan and Jamison Gibson-Park, not travelling. Peter O’Mahony will captain the side.

Gibson-Park has a hamstring injury after failing to finish for Leinster in their United Rugby Championship (URC) semi-final against the Bulls. He departed with a HIA after being cleared out of a ruck and did not return. His omission will be a significant blow to Farrell’s plans to beat the world champions on home soil.

Another injury omission is Connacht winger Mack Hansen, who remains sidelined due to a shoulder injury. Conan has withdrawn for personal reasons. He and wife Ali are expected to have their first child during the two-week window.


In Gibson-Park’s absence, Connacht’s Caolin Blade and Munster’s Craig Casey as well as veteran Conor Murray travel as the three scrumhalves with Prendergast and Jack Crowley to be Farrell’s preferred options for the outhalf position, although Ciarán Frawley has also been included.

Leinster outhalf Harry Byrne, who was named among Farrell’s 34-player squad for this year’s Six Nations Championship, has not been selected along with older brother Ross. It looks like Frawley bumped his way to the front of the queue in that mini battle. He can cover across several positions in the backs including outhalf, centre and fullback.

Farrell selected three further training additions before this year’s Six Nations Championship, Munster duo Oli Jager and Thomas Ahern, and Prendergast, who all travelled with the Irish squad to Portugal for a pre-tournament training camp in Quinta do Lago.

Tighthead prop Jager won his first cap during this year’s championship and is included with Prendergast, while Ahern suffered a season-ending leg injury ahead of Munster’s URC quarter-final match against Ospreys.

Conan’s absence allows Nick Timoney to come in and try to make an impact. Timoney, who has been capped three times, and his fellow Ulster backrow Izuchukwu, have really livened up Ulster’s pack, both playing pivotal roles throughout the season and more recently against Munster in Thomond Park.

“Travelling to South Africa to play a Test Series against the defending world champions provides no greater test for us, and it is another valuable opportunity for us to further grow and develop from the Guinness Six Nations,” said Farrell.

“The squad will come together in Dublin this week in preparation for the Tour and the group understands the need to hit the ground running, ensuring we are the best version of ourselves for the challenge ahead.”

It is also just reward for the uncapped Izuchukwu the London-born, Tullamore-raised backrow, who has more than filled the Ulster number six jersey. His athleticism, speed and handling ability echo back to his days as a centre at school and wing with the Ireland Sevens. Cian Prendergast has also been rewarded on form, the Connacht forward also hoping to add to his three caps. Otherwise, the forwards selected are tried and trusted, Farrell faithfully keeping with those players who have not let him down in the past.

“I am proud to be asked to lead Ireland in South Africa, a country which provides one of the toughest challenges in world rugby,” said captain O’Mahony, who is expected to earn his 106th Irish cap.

“As reigning world champions, South Africa will provide the sternest of tests and we know that we will have to perform at a high level to get the results we want. There’s a lot of respect and familiarity between both countries in recent years at international and Club levels, since they were invited to join the URC and European Cup competitions, and we know the challenge that awaits.”

A lot of interest will focus on Prendergast and Osborne, who slotted in with Robbie Henshaw while Garry Ringrose was sidelined. Both are greatly valued in Leinster.

It is an opportunity for the 21-year-old Prendergast to challenge the ever-improving Crowley at pivot. In the absence of any nailed down back up at outhalf, his and Osborne’s temperament and performance under pressure from the Springboks, perhaps at altitude in Loftus Versfeld, will be keenly watched.

Ireland squad:


Ryan Baird, Finlay Bealham, Tadhg Beirne, Caelan Doris, Tadhg Furlong, Cian Healy, Rob Herring, Cormac Izuchukwu, Oli Jager, Ronan Kelleher, Joe McCarthy, Peter O’Mahony, Tom O’Toole, Andrew Porter, Cian Prendergast, James Ryan, Dan Sheehan, Nick Timoney, Josh van der Flier


Bundee Aki, Caolin Blade, Craig Casey, Jack Crowley, Ciaran Frawley, Robbie Henshaw, Jordan Larmour, James Lowe, Stuart McCloskey, Conor Murray, Calvin Nash, Jimmy O’Brien, Jamie Osborne, Sam Prendergast, Garry Ringrose, Jacob Stockdale

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times