The Ireland coaching team have named the Match Day 23 to take on reigning world champions South Africa in the opening fixture of the Bank of Ireland Nations Series at Aviva Stadium on Saturday (Kick-off 5.30pm, live on Virgin Media and Amazon Prime).
Conor Murray is set to earn his 100th cap for Ireland and is one of just five players in the starting team that started the last game between the two sides in 2017. Tadhg Furlong, Robbie Henshaw, Peter O’Mahony and Johnny Sexton were the other players to start against the Springbok five years ago.
Cian Healy, who is named on the bench for Saturday’s game, also started the 2017 game while Rob Herring, James Ryan and Joey Carbery were among the replacements that day.
Tadhg Beirne and Jack Conan have never played for Ireland against South Africa but featured against the Springboks for the British and Irish Lions in the 2021 Test Series. Furlong, Henshaw and Murray also played in that Test Series.
Finlay Bealham has experience of playing the Boks as he was a replacement in the second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg on the 2016 Tour.
Whereas Robert Baloucoune, Caelan Doris, Jamison Gibson Park, Mack Hansen, Hugo Keenan, Stuart McCloskey, Andrew Porter, Garry Ringrose, Dan Sheehan, Kieran Treadwell and Josh van der Flier have never faced South Africa at senior level.
Baloucoune missed the Summer Tour of New Zealand through injury but started against both the Griquas and the Cheetahs for Emerging Ireland last month.
Ireland captain Sexton will make his 109th appearance for Ireland this Saturday, becoming the country’s fifth most capped player of all time pushing current Forwards Coach Paul O’Connell into sixth position.
Speaking ahead of the eagerly-awaited clash with the Springboks, head coach Andy Farrell said: “It is a different challenge which is a great thing for us, because it’s something we need to judge ourselves on, the style of play that they play because of what’s down the track.
“They’re obviously a world class side. They 100% play to their strengths and I think that’s what rugby is all about, isn’t it? Finding out what your strength is and applying it, and they do it better than most.
“It’s a great match-up. It’s priceless for both teams. Yeah, it’s exciting because of what’s down the track, but for the here and now, well it’s pretty good as well.”
He added: “I suppose there’s more know-how of what’s coming (because of the South African teams being in the URC). We all know that international level is a big step up.
“Playing against the World champions here is going to be a massive step up for everyone concerned. It’s something that everyone wants to gauge themselves on. We want to gauge ourselves on how we perform against a side that we’ve not played for a good few years.”
Nathan Doak, Tom Stewart and Stewart Moore have now joined the extended squad.
IRELAND v South Africa
15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 23 caps
14. Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) 2 caps
13. Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 44 caps
12.Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 60 caps
11. Mack Hansen (Connacht) 6 caps
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 108 caps CAPTAIN
9. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 99 caps
1. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 46 caps
2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 10 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 60 caps
4. Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 33 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 46 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 87 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 43 caps
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 20 caps
16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 28 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 118 caps
18. Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 25 caps
19. Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 8 caps
20. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 30 caps
21. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 20 caps
22. Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 35 caps
23. Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 6 caps.