South Africa v Ireland: Joe Schmidt set to ring changes
Quinn Roux may make Test debut in crunch game while Craig Gilroy could be recalled
ssistant Coach Andy Farrell with Rhys Ruddock and Iain Henderson during training on Wednesday. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
In the immediate aftermath of last Saturday’s epic and historic first Test win in Cape Town, Joe Schmidt admitted that such a monumental first Test victory has made it more difficult to make changes. Yet Schmidt is still likely to be true to his word in freshening up his team by utilising more of Ireland’s 32-man squad when the team to face the Springboks is announced at lunchtime today.
The Irish management also have to be mindful of the heightened workload which 14 players had to produce in the first Test, and this second Test being at altitude, not to mention a third consecutive Test to come as the finale to a 52-week season. The likes of Craig Gilroy, Stuart Olding and Quinn Roux could also come into the mix.
“I don’t think I’d ever use the word rotate but I think we’ll make those decisions later in the week,” said Schmidt in the aftermath of Saturday’s win. “We’ve got to be conscious that we’re going to altitude, that we’re going to need some fresh legs and it is a long season.”
Schmidt also gave a strong indication that the selection strategy was intended to delve into the 32-man squad, rather than leave a chunk of the 32-man party unused.
“I guess the other part is that we’ve got some players that we want to find out a little bit about on this tour. That was always our intention so we do want to offer some opportunity but at the same time you earn the jersey and it’s pretty hard to take it off some of those guys who demonstrated their commitment to it again today.”
Provincial positionsIain Henderson
Whether or not CJ Stander would have been earmarked for a rest is a moot point but his suspension, along with the absence of Seán O’Brien, Tommy O’Donnell and Peter O’Mahony, ensures there will be an unfamiliar backrow.
The signs are that Murphy will be rested too after last Saturday’s workload, with Henderson switching to blindside flanker and Rhys Ruddock coming in at seven, where he started and starred as a late call-up for Chris Henry when Ireland beat South Africa in November 2014 at the Aviva Stadium.
This could mean a promotion for Ultan Dillane, who heretofore has won all of his four caps off the bench and is seemingly seen as more of an impact player at this juncture, or perhaps a recall for Donnacha Ryan, who started Ireland’s last three Six Nations games. Or, quite conceivably, a Test debut for the aforementioned Roux.
Apparently Gilroy could be in line for a recall in an all-Ulster back three with Jared Payne and Andrew Trimble, with Keith Earls to be rested, as might seemingly be the case with Luke Marshall, in which case another Ulster back, Stuart Olding, could come.
Schmidt and co are huge admirers of the 23-year-old Ulster back, who made his debut against the USA three summers ago and won his second and last cap as a replacement against Georgia in November 2014.
The Springboks’ head coach, Allister Coetzee, has also re-iterated that he is inclined toward giving the bulk of last Saturday’s starting line-up another opportunity to redeem themselves, and that making wholesale changes would convey a hint of panic.
The absence of Pat Lambie due to concussion enforces one change at outhalf, with Elton Jantjies expected to make his first Test start at this home ground alongside Lions’ teammate Faf de Klerk. Lock Look de Jager and number eight Duane Vermeulen have also been forced to sit out training this week, which could mean promotions for Pieter-Steph du Toit and/or Warren Whiteley.