Ireland and South Africa will launch the 2014 GUINNESS Series at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening, as the reigning Six Nations champions come up against the world’s number 2 ranked team.
2014 GUINNESS SERIES MATCH: Saturday, November 8
IRELAND v SOUTH AFRICA, Aviva Stadium, 5.30pm (live RTÉ 2/Sky Sports 2 HD/RTÉ Radio 1/IRFU Live Blog)
Team News: Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt has announced a strong team to face South Africa at the Aviva Stadium for the first game of the 2014 GUINNESS Series.
There is one new cap in the matchday 23 with Ulster’s Jared Payne set to make his Ireland debut alongside Robbie Henshaw in an exciting new centre partnership.
Paul O’Connell captains the side and is joined in the engine room by Devin Toner, with the Limerick man’s 95th cap seeing him become Ireland’s most-capped second row.
The back row is made up of Jamie Heaslip, Chris Henry and Peter O’Mahony, while the front row sees Jack McGrath and Mike Ross pack down either side of their provincial team-mate Sean Cronin.
Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton are reunited at half-back and Tommy Bowe returns to the back-three for the first time since last year’s GUINNESS Series. He lines out alongside Simon Zebo and full-back Rob Kearney.
There is plenty of impact on the bench with Richardt Strauss, Dave Kilcoyne, Rodney Ah You, Mike McCarthy and Rhys Ruddock providing cover for the pack and Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan and Felix Jones covering the outfield.
Meanwhile, South Africa boss Heyneke Meyer has named the same starting line-up that beat New Zealand a month ago to face Ireland in the opening Test of their European tour.
The only change to the Springboks’ matchday squad is in the front row reserves where injured prop Marcel van der Merwe is replaced by Coenie Oosthuizen.
Captain Jean de Villiers, the ex-Munster centre, and Toulon flyer Bryan Habana are the experienced hands in the back-line with 205 Test caps between them.
Highly-regarded 20-year-old Handré Pollard continues at out-half alongside his Blue Bulls team-mate Francois Hougaard, with Cheetahs duo Willie le Roux and Cornal Hendricks also playing against Ireland for the first time.
Full-back le Roux, Hendricks and forwards Duane Vermeulen, Jannie du Plessis and Bismarck du Plessis have played in all nine Tests for the Springboks so far in 2014.
The du Plessis brothers are joined by Tendai Mtawarira in a solid all-Sharks front row, while 37-year-old Victor Matfield – the oldest Springbok ever – will extend his caps record to 117 Tests in a second row pairing with Eben Etzebeth.
Number 8 Vermeulen, who also started against Ireland in November 2012, links up with Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje and Marcell Coetzee in the back row.
IRELAND: Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster); Tommy Bowe (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Jared Payne (Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht), Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster); Jonathan Sexton (Racing Metro 92), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster); Jack McGrath (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Sean Cronin (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster) (capt), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Chris Henry (Malone/Ulster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster).
Replacements: Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Rodney Ah You (Buccaneers/Connacht), Mike McCarthy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Rhys Ruddock (St. Mary’s College/Leinster), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Ian Madigan (Blackrock College/Leinster), Felix Jones (Shannon/Munster).
SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux (FS Cheetahs); Cornal Hendricks (FS Cheetahs), Jan Serfontein (Blue Bulls), Jean de Villiers (Western Province) (capt), Bryan Habana (Toulon); Handré Pollard (Blue Bulls), Francois Hougaard (Blue Bulls); Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Eben Etzebeth (Western Province), Victor Matfield (Blue Bulls), Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje (FS Cheetahs), Duane Vermeulen (Western Province).
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss (FS Cheetahs), Trevor Nyakane (FS Cheetahs), Coenie Oosthuizen (FS Cheetahs), Bakkies Botha (Toulon), Schalk Burger (Suntory), Cobus Reinach (Sharks), Pat Lambie (Sharks), JP Pietersen (Panasonic).
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal, Alexandre Ruiz (both France)
Television Match Official: Jim Yuille (Scotland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 11/4; Draw: 20/1; South Africa to win: 1/3
Pre-Match Quotes: Paul O’Connell (Ireland) – “It’s a similar rated opposition (to the All Blacks last yer) but it’s also a similar time of the season to when we played Australia last year, first game of the year.
“You come in and work under Joe for two weeks and it’s very different to anything else we work in our provinces. In that first game last year we knew exactly what we wanted to do when we went out onto the pitch, but we probably didn’t have the correct mental attitude to execute it.
“If we don’t have that tomorrow against South Africa, it will be a very tough day. They have an excellent back-line that they have been utilising more than ever this season but they base so much of what they do on physicality and intensity.
“We need to be able to match that. We need to be able to find that in our first game having not played since the middle of June. That is the big thing for us, being able to hit the ground running and be able to start as if we have played six or seven games in a row together.
“The way training has gone this week has been good. It hasn’t been perfect at times. I remember that Australia week last year going well. It hasn’t been perfect at times but guys have reacted really well and it has added to the preparation in some ways.
“You look at this challenge we have, South Africa have blitzed New Zealand, beaten them in a great game at home in South Africa. They are playing great rugby. It’s a massive challenge for us.
“For the likes of the guys who are picked, Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath. For the guys that are picked in the absence of (the injured) Cian Healy and Rory Best, it’s a brilliant opportunity.”
Jean de Villiers (South Africa) – “You can see it in the detail and how they (Ireland) approach matches now. Schmidt’s success at Leinster speaks for itself and he was pretty useful too when he worked under Vern Cotter at Clermont.
“Ireland are a much better team under Schmidt and the players look as if they are enjoying themselves. That is clear from their Six Nations success and we know this is going to be a tough match and we will have to be at our best.
“They (Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw) bring something different to the game compared to Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll, who to my mind was the greatest centre of this generation.
“They’ll be coming out firing and want to prove a point. With regard to Jan (Serfontein) we have been really linking well and interchanging on the pitch. He has really matured over the past year and has played some great rugby.
“We are under no illusions about the Irish – they are the Six Nations champions and they should have beaten the All Blacks last November and even the New Zealand players admitted that.
“We have made strides ourselves over the past year but just because we beat the All Blacks doesn’t make us a perfect side. This match is another test for us and presents different challenges.”
Pre-Match Links –
Recent Meetings –
2009 GUINNESS Series: Ireland 15 South Africa 10, Croke Park
2010 GUINNESS Series: Ireland 21 South Africa 23, Aviva Stadium
2012 GUINNESS Series: Ireland 16 South Africa 12, Aviva Stadium