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Ireland at the 2019 Rugby World Cup

Ireland Team Named For GUINNESS Series Opener

Ireland Team Named For GUINNESS Series Opener

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has named the team to play South Africa in the opening fixture of the 2017 GUINNESS Series at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday (kick-off 5.30pm). Bundee Aki will make his debut while Sean O’Brien is set to win his 50th Ireland cap.

Uncapped centre Bundee Aki is one of 11 personnel changes to the Ireland side that wrapped up the 2017 summer tour with a second Test victory over Japan in Tokyo.

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Nine of this year’s British & Irish Lions squad return to action with Ireland, along with the fit-again Rob Kearney at full-back. Aki, who is now Irish-qualified through residency, is reunited with his former Connacht team-mate Robbie Henshaw at centre.

21-year-old Ulster winger Jacob Stockdale will make his home debut after winning his first two caps in June, while it will be a first start on home soil for the three-times capped Andrew Conway on the opposite flank. Keith Earls is ruled out with a hamstring injury picked up in training.

Completing the back-three, Kearney is set for his first international appearance since last March’s defeat to Wales, with the back-line again marshalled by Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray, who scored a try in Ireland’s historic tour win over South Africa in June last year.

Rory Best returns from Lions duty to captain his country for the 20th time. He is joined in the front row by Cian Healy, who comes in for his first Test start at the Aviva Stadium in the space of a year, and tighthead Tadhg Furlong.

Iain Henderson packs down in the second row with Devin Toner, who won his 50th cap last time out, while Tullow man Sean O’Brien will hit the half-century mark in an all-Lions back row combination with Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander.

Darren Sweetnam is poised to become Ireland’s second debutant on Saturday, having been named among the replacements. Leinster lock James Ryan, who won his first cap during the recent summer tour, is also included, and Ulster’s Rob Herring is in line to win his first cap since making his debut against Argentina in 2014.

Commenting on the two new inclusions in Ireland’s matchday squad, Joe Schmidt said: “Bundee has slotted in really well but I don’t think it’s any different for Darren Sweetnam or anyone else. Darren’s been in one or two other camps, Bundee came in for just the single day we had earlier in the season. So people have dipped their toe in and now they’ve got to plunge in and it’s a pretty deep pool first up.

“One of the things that is good about Bundee and a few of the other players that have come in is they are quite instinctive players. Jacob Stockdale, his instinct is to carry and to be very strong and try to take the outside break and if that’s what he sees, that’s what we want to back himself doing. It’s as simple as that really.

“I really hope for Bundee’s sake and for the team’s sake that he has a scorching game and hopefully that will appease some of the doubters, but I know there’s an incredible amount of people who are really positive about his involvement as well.

“Darren seems a real calm, settled sort of guy. He doesn’t get ruffled and I think a lot of times when you make errors stepping up to the next level, yes, it’s more physical, yes, you’ve got less time and space, so there’s more urgency to make decisions and you can be unsettled by that.

“He’s pretty calm, he’s got some good footwork, he knows where the try-line is, he finishes well, he’s got some good defensive habits and some that we’ll keep working on. He’s a package that’s interesting and he’ll be looking to become a more complete package through these three weeks.”

IRELAND Team & Replacements (v South Africa, 2017 GUINNESS Series, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, November 11, kick-off 5.30pm):

Player/Club/Province/Caps –

15. Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster) 76
14. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 3
13. Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 29
12. Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) *
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 2
10. Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 66
9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 57  
1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 70
2. Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) (capt) 104
3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 16
4. Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 32
5. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 50
6. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 40
7. Sean O’Brien (UCD/Leinster) 49
8. CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 15
  
Replacements:

16. Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 1
17. Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster)  20
18. John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 9
19. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 2
20. Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 16
21. Kieran Marmion (Corinthians/Connacht)  16
22. Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Leinster) 4
23. Darren Sweetnam (Cork Constitution/Munster) *

* Denotes uncapped player