South Africa vs Ireland: Garry Ringrose could return at 13 among a number of Irish changes

Simon Easterby says Ireland had no issues with the way Caelan Doris communicated with the officials as captain last weekend

Garry Ringrose could come into the Ireland team to face South Africa this weekend. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Simon Easterby was the bearer of good news at Northwood School in Durban on Wednesday confirming that Ireland’s lengthy injury list had dissipated with just hooker Dan Sheehan and scrumhalf Craig Casey ruled out of Saturday’s second Test against South Africa at Kings Park (4pm Irish time).

Ireland’s bruising 27-20 defeat to the Springboks in Pretoria suggested wholesale changes but Jamie Osborne (leg), Bundee Aki (shoulder), James Lowe (thigh) and Robbie Henshaw (concussion) are available for selection. They took part in Wednesday’s training session ahead of the team being named at 2pm on Thursday.

Easterby, the Irish defence coach confirmed: “Yeah, everyone trained today. “Heff [Dave Heffernan] and Doaky [Nathan Doak] came in and took part in the session. Everyone apart from Dan [Sheehan] and Craig [Casey] were available and training.”

Rassie Erasmus announced an unchanged team and replacements, but it appears that Ireland may make several beyond the two enforced alterations at hooker and scrumhalf, where Rónan Kelleher and Conor Murray are likely to be promoted from the replacements. Rob Herring and Caolin Blade will come onto the bench in such an eventuality.


Easterby explained: “Selection is always a balance between knowing that players maybe didn’t produce the type of performance you believe and know they’re capable of, and that they know they’re capable of doing, and also giving an opportunity. That will be reflected in the selection this week.

“It’s one of the toughest jobs as coaches in deciding on that 15 because there is so much competition in the squad.

“You can’t give opportunities to everyone but the guys that do get an opportunity must have a feel and understanding that they have got that chance and there are lots of other players who won’t have got that chance last week or this week. So, they have to make sure that they play for each other in the group.”

Jimmy O'Brien is in contention to come into the Ireland side starting on the wing. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Jimmy O’Brien could come into the back three, Garry Ringrose looks set to start at 13, while head coach Andy Farrell might look to rejig the back five in the pack with James Ryan and Ryan Baird looking to push their way into the run-on team and Nick Timoney in terms of the replacements.

Easterby was asked whether Ireland had received satisfactory feedback on several contentious decisions from the officials during the first Test. His response was unequivocal. “We’ve got feedback, yeah. We’ve gone through the right process. We’ve had an opportunity to get feedback and put our case forward. I think South Africa have done the same.

“We now believe that we’ll make sure that this weekend there’s no ambiguity. There’s always going to be decisions you don’t agree with; referees have an incredibly tough job, especially at the breakdown, there’s so much going on. We just want to make sure the clear and obvious is picked up, that it’s refereed.

“It sounds bad, but it means a side has to concede 15, 20 penalties because those indiscretions are there and clear and obvious. If a side concedes five, then it’s because they’ve been disciplined.”

Easterby added that what teams are looking for is “real clear comms [communications] and decisions.” He also maintained that the coaching group had no problem with the way that Caelan Doris – he took over the captaincy after Peter O’Mahony went off – dealt with referee Luke Pearce despite the official taking umbrage from time to time.

“We thought that Caelan handled himself incredibly well. He has the responsibility to ask questions, he has just to do it at the correct time and that we give the referee a bit of space to make the decisions. They [the officials] need to work as a team of four. Sometimes that maybe didn’t happen in the game in order to gain those correct decisions whichever way they go.

“We believe Caelan was well within his rights to ask some of those questions [but] he needs to also understand that the referees need a little bit of space to then make those decisions. So hopefully this weekend, there will be clear lines of communication between captains and Karl [Dickson, Saturday’s referee], the TMOs and the assistants [that they] can work together and make sure the correct decisions are made at the end of it.”

IRELAND (possible): J Osborne; J O’Brien, G Ringrose, B Aki, J Lowe; J Crowley, C Murray; A Porter, R Kelleher, T Furlong; J McCarthy, J Ryan; T Beirne, J van der Flier, C Doris (capt).

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer