Heaslip will lead Ireland

 

Rugby:Jamie Heaslip will lead Ireland for the first time against South Africa on Saturday. The Leinster number 8, who steps into the captaincy role in the absence of Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll, leads a team that contains one new cap, Richardt Strauss, in the starting XV and three uncapped players, David Kilcoyne, Michael Bent and Ulster’s Iain Henderson, on the replacements bench.

“He’s the consummate professional,” said coach Declan Kidney of his new captain. “When he turns up for work he is really zeroed in. He is aware of what is needed. He has been around for five or six years now. We wanted to make sure it (captaincy) was a progression.”

Heaslip has led Leinster on a number of occasions this year and will be used to dealing with inexperienced players. With Simon Zebo at fullback earning his first start in a green shirt as well as uncapped Strauss, Mike McCarthy who has four caps, Chris Henry who has two caps and Peter O’Mahony who has seven, it is not a seasoned Irish side.

“The first thing my dad said was congratulations on your captaincy but I’m a colonel so I can still pull rank on you…to be honest I’m quite humbled by it all,” said Heaslip, whose father is in the army.

“There are a lot of leaders around the pitch. There is a lot of respect there. We have talked about ownership of the jersey on the day. We want to come off after the match, hang the jersey on the hook and know you have done it proud.”

Strauss teams up with familiar Leinster faces in the front row, Cian Healy and Mike Ross with a relatively inexperienced second row behind them in McCarthy and Donnacha Ryan, while Heaslip is by far the most experienced of the backrow, although Ulster’s Henry has been a natural leader with his province.

Keith Earls fills in for O’Driscoll at outside centre with Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble, two fair sized wingers, outside him to face what will be a physical Springbok side. “We’ll do what we’ve always done,” said Kidney. “We won’t make any promises but we will give it our best shot.”

Ireland:S Zebo (Munster); T Bowe (Ulster), K Earls (Munster), G D’Arcy (Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster); J Sexton (Leinster), C Murray (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), R Strauss (Leinster), M Ross (Leinster); M McCarthy (Connacht), D Ryan (Munster); P O’Mahony (Munster), C Henry (Ulster), J Healsip (Leinster, capt). Replacements:S Cronin (Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), M Bent (Leinster), D O’Callaghan (Munster), I Henderson (Ulster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O’Gara (Munster), F McFadden (Leinster)

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