Gerry Thornley: Ireland to revert to core values for final leg
Pack for first Test to return with Luke Marshall and Stuart Olding to line up in centre
CJ Stander with some local kids during Ireland’s tour of South Africa. Photo: Inpho
Ireland are expected to revert to the core of the side that pitched up for their victory in the first Test at Newlands when Joe Schmidt announces his starting line-up and replacements at lunchtime today for next Saturday’s concluding Test to this three-match series and a marathon 17-Test season.
There could be a case for investing further in Tadhg Furlong but it would no surprise if Ireland revert to the starting pack from the first Test en bloc, meaning recalls for the refreshed Mike Ross, CJ Stander and Jordi Murphy.
While Ireland have been relatively fortunate not to see any additions to their original list of absentees from before the tour, there has to be at least one enforced change from that first Test starting XV given Robbie Henshaw has returned home with a knee injury. [CROSSHEAD]Less upheaval[/CROSSHEAD] Given Jared Payne’s excellent form in both Tests at fullback, retaining him there and perming the Ulster pair of Stuart Olding and Luke Marshall, would appear to mean less upheaval. Each took it in turn to play at inside centre in the opening two Tests, would appear to mean less upheaval, but Marshall has played much of his rugby for Ulster at outside centre this season. Marshall and Keith Earls would thus also be recalled after being rested last week.
All of this hinges on a clean bill of health, and there may be some concern about Payne who limped off before the end in Johannesburg with what was initially diagnosed as cramp. Were he ruled out, then presumably Tiernan O’Halloran, who replaced Payne for the last three minutes in Ellis Park, would come in as a direct replacement.
In addition to recalling five players who were rested last week, there is also the scope to recall Sean Cronin and Ultan Dillane as replacements to give the bench more oomph. It could be that Eoin Reddan, heretofore not named in either match-day squad, is also recalled to the bench.
Allister Coetzee will also be obliged to make changes, given the Springboks have confirmed that their starting number eight from the two previous Tests, Duane Vermeulen (elbow), and back-up loosehead Trevor Nyakane (ankle) have joined lock Lood de Jager (calf) and Pat Lambie (concussion) on their casualty list.
Warren Whitely, who made such a big impact in the second half last Saturday after replacing Vermeulen at half-time, is a ready-made alternative from the start, while the French-based Steven Kitshoff looks like covering Tendai Mtawarira off the bench. [CROSSHEAD]Switching[/CROSSHEAD] It also seems probable that Ruan Cumbrinck will make his first Test start after his eye-catching, try-scoring debut on foot of replacing Lwazi Mvovo at half-time, with JP Pietersen switching to the left wing, as he did in the second half in Johannesburg.
Coetzee is also believed to be looking at the possibility of starting Julian Redelinghuys ahead of Frans Malherbe at tighthead. The reshuffles could see Jaco and Jesse Kriel also recalled to the bench.