Tommy O’Donnell the surprise omission for South Africa
Joe Schmidt names uncapped forwards Quinn Roux and Sean Reidy in 32-man squad
Ulster backrow Sean Reidy is one of two uncapped players in the 32-man Ireland squad for the tour of South Africa. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
At the end of a long, arduous World Cup season, Ireland will endeavour to hit the ground running with clearly as much familiarity as they can muster for the first Test at Cape Town.
It will be their 15th Test of the season against a Springboks team making their seasonal debut under a new coaching ticket, yet there will be at least two changes to the starting XV which signed off the Six Nations with the win over Scotland.
This follows the omission from the 32-man squad announced yesterday of the Munster pair of Simon Zebo and, most surprisingly of all, Tommy O’Donnell. The fit again Iain Henderson could also force his way into the team, while there will be at least another four changes from that match-day squad from that day given the absence of Cian Healy, Nathan White, Fergus McFadden and, less surprisingly, the Bordeaux-bound Ian Madigan, heretofore an ever-present this season.
Healy and White are amongst those listed as injured and thus unavailable, along with Denis Buckley, Josh van der Flier, Peter O’Mahony, Seán O’Brien, Tommy Bowe, Andrew Conway and Zebo, who had apparently resumed running this week after undergoing keyhole surgery on his knee.
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This is the latest blow to O’Donnell, who has had a somewhat stop-start Test career since winning the first of his dozen caps on the summer tour to the Americas in 2013. After appearing off the bench in the wins over Scotland and Wales in the ensuing Six Nations, he was dropped from the match-day squad for the remaining three games when replaced by Jordi Murphy.
Similarly he was in and out of the side and/or squad in both of the last two Six Nations campaigns, and in between was ruled out of the World Cup when suffering a dislocated hip toward the end of the opening warm-up game away to Wales. Having started the opening Six Nations draw with Wales, he came off the bench against France, was omitted against England and Italy, and then recalled to start against Scotland.
Hence, yesterday’s exclusion ensures he has yet to start two successive matches for Ireland, and at various junctures he has been behind O’Brien, van der Flier and now Sean Reidy, as well as Murphy (who looks set to start the first Test).
The 24-year-old Reidy qualifies for Ireland through his grandfather, who hailed from Castlegregory in Kerry, and makes the cut on the back of some impressive form for Ulster, and the absence of others.
Madigan’s absence is not especially surprising, given the comments by Joe Schmidt and the IRFU High Performance Director David Nucifora which suggested his impending relocation to Bordeaux Begles was regarded as unfortunate and might count against him come selection time.
Limited game time with Leinster of late wouldn’t have helped his cause either. Coupled with this has been the form of Paddy Jackson and to fitness of Stuart Olding, whose versatility sees him selected on the back of some cameos off the bench for Ulster.
Similarly, Marty Moore’s impending move to Wasps has counted against him, along with no game time for Leinster since recovering from the hamstring injury which ruled him out of the Six Nations.
In an entirely understandable policy of not picking foreign-based, or foreign-bound players barring exceptional cases (ie Johnny Sexton), once again Leinster are bulk suppliers, with 14 players, ahead of Ulster with eight and five each for Munster and Connacht.
The latter includes the Leinster-bound Robbie Henshaw, but still very much a Connacht player for one more week.
Forwards: F Bealham (Connacht), R Best (Ulster, capt), S Cronin (Leinster, U Dillane (Connacht), T Furlong, J Heaslip (both Leinster), D Kilcoyne (Munster), J McGrath, J Murphy (Leinster), S Reidy (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), Q Roux (Connacht), R Ruddock (Leinster), D Ryan, CJ Stander (both Munster), R Strauss, D Toner (both Leinster).
Backs: K Earls (Munster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster), R Henshaw (Connacht), P Jackson (Ulster), D Kearney, R Kearney (both Leinster), K Marmion (Connacht), L Marshall (Ulster), C Murray (Munster), S Olding, J Payne (Ulster), E Reddan, J Sexton (both Leinster), A Trimble (Ulster).