Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has finalised the starting line-up for Saturday’s final GUINNESS Series Test against Argentina at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 5.30pm). Leinster’s Adam Byrne will make his debut on the right wing.
The selected side shows three changes to the one that defeated South Africa 38-3 at the start of the GUINNESS Series, with Andrew Conway, injured centre Robbie Henshaw and Devin Toner all missing out.
Conway, the man-of-the-match against Fiji last Saturday, and Toner are included on the bench, but Henshaw is sidelined for the renewal of rivalries with the Pumas owing to the hamstring strain he sustained in training earlier this week.
Henshaw’s absence sees Munster’s Chris Farrell retain his starting place at outside centre, having made his debut against the flying Fijians. He will pair up with Connacht star Bundee Aki who won his first cap in the Springboks game.
23-year-old Adam Byrne gets his opportunity to impress in the green jersey, becoming the fourth debutant back of the series. He is the second graduate of the Ireland Men’s Sevens programme to play at Test level, after Rory O’Loughlin was capped against Japan in June.
Left winger Jacob Stockdale will make his fourth start since June, with the back-line book-ended again by the experienced trio of Rob Kearney, Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray, who have an impressive 202 Ireland caps between them.
Captaining his country for the 21st time, Rory Best resumes in the front row alongside in-form props Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong. Powering the engine room will be 21-year-old Leinster second row James Ryan, who comes in for his first start and fourth cap, and Iain Henderson.
The highly-rated Ryan becomes Ireland’s youngest starting lock of the professional era, edging out Bob Casey (2000) and Kieran Treadwell (2017), who were also 21. The 2017 Lions trio of Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien and CJ Stander, who captained Ireland during the closing stages against Fiji, form the back row combination again.
Joe Schmidt’s bench options include the aforementioned Toner and Conway, as well as Ian Keatley, who landed two crucial penalties last Saturday, and Luke McGrath. The other reserve forward berths are filled by Rhys Ruddock, James Tracy, Dave Kilcoyne and John Ryan, the Munster prop who has successfully rehabbed a calf injury.
Head coach Schmidt commented: “Adam Byrne has given us the confidence to include him. He is picking up information all the time and with experience around him, I hope he gets a good hit-out.
“It will be a challenging day for the outside backs, three of the four only have five caps between them. We’ve always had new blood coming in. It was exaggerated during the summer with the Lions tour and older players missing out. We are casting the net reasonably wide.”
“If we’re looking two years backwards (to the 2015 World Cup quarter-final against Argentina), how are you looking forwards? There’s a danger in looking back because how can we learn? There are only half-a-dozen survivors from that game.
“We will be focusing on ourselves rather than Argentina. They are much changed as well. We want to get something out of this game because it is tight heading into the Six Nations and we can see how the other home nations are doing well.”
Asked about Henshaw’s injury, he explained: “At a push, Robbie could have potentially been involved but it should see him fine for what is coming up (with Leinster). This window is ideal for us to see guys in pressurised situations and after Chris (Farrell) did well last weekend, this is another opportunity for him.”
IRELAND Team & Replacements (v Argentina, 2017 GUINNESS Series, Aviva Stadium, Saturday, November 25, kick-off 5.30pm):
15. Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster) 77
14. Adam Byrne (UCD/Leinster) *
13. Chris Farrell (Young Munster/Munster) 1
12. Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 1
11. Jacob Stockdale (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 3
10. Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 67
9. Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 58
1. Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 72
2. Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster) 105 (capt)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 18
4. James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 3
5. Iain Henderson (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 33
6. Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 41
7. Sean O’Brien (UCD/Leinster) 50
8. CJ Stander (Shannon/Munster) 17
16. James Tracy (UCD/Leinster) 5
17. Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster) 21
18. John Ryan (Cork Constitution/Munster) 10
19. Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster) 52
20. Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 18
21. Luke McGrath (UCD/Leinster) 5
22. Ian Keatley (Young Munster/Munster) 6
23. Andrew Conway (Garryowen/Munster) 5
* Denotes uncapped player