Irish rugby history will be made at the Aviva Stadium this evening as the redeveloped Lansdowne Road ground hosts its first rugby international – the GUINNESS Series encounter between Ireland and reigning World champions South Africa.
2010 GUINNESS SERIES TEST MATCH: Saturday, November 6
IRELAND v SOUTH AFRICA, Aviva Stadium, 5.30pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC Two)
Team News: The Ireland team to play South Africa in the opening game of the 2010 GUINNESS Series shows the return of several players who missed the summer tour to New Zealand and Australia.
Luke Fitzgerald starts his first Test match in nearly a year, since playing against Australia last November, and is named on the left wing, with Tommy Bowe and Rob Kearney making up the other back-three positions.
Gordon D’Arcy will earn his 50th cap when he lines out alongside Brian O’Driscoll, his long-time Leinster and Ireland centre partner.
Eoin Reddan has been given the starting berth at scrum half and Rory Best will line out at hooker after missing the summer tour due to an ankle injury.
Best will pack down in the front row with Tony Buckley and Cian Healy at tighthead and loosehead respectively, both of whom started Ireland’s most recent Test against Australia.
Donncha O’Callaghan and Mick O’Driscoll also started that game in June and will again form the second row partnership, with Stephen Ferris and David Wallace named in the back row alongside Jamie Heaslip.
Keith Earls has recovered from an ankle injury to take the final spot on the replacements bench.
Team captain O’Driscoll, who has shaken off a hamstring injury, commented: “The prospect of being back home is hugely exciting and we do see the ground as our home.
“As great as it was being at Croke Park and lucky as we felt being allowed to play there, this is where we belong. It might look vastly different to when we last played here but this is essentially the home of Irish rugby.
“We want to make it a difficult place to come and play but because of the surroundings that will be more difficult.
“Coming into the old Lansdowne Road there were gale force winds to help out and opposition teams weren’t used to playing in the conditions.
“Now it’s a more aesthetically pleasing place for teams to come into. It will be easier to play in the environment created here so it’s the players’ job to make it a difficult place to come.
“We do that through the brand of rugby we play and the standards that we set ourselves. We hope to get off to winning ways and create a fortress here.”
Meanwhile, flanker Deon Stegmann will make his Test debut for South Africa in Saturday’s tour opener.
Stegmann, 24, will don the number 6 jersey in place of the injured Schalk Burger, who suffered a broken rib in last weekend’s Currie Cup final and has been withdrawn from the tour party.
In all, Peter de Villiers’ team shows nine changes to the one which ended the Tri Nations against Australia in September.
The six survivors are Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, team captain Victor Matfield and Jannie du Plessis.
Former Munster centre Jean de Villiers came through a fitness test on Friday to take his place in the ‘Boks’ back-line, having been troubled by a groin injury.
The selected South African bench includes two uncapped players in Sharks duo Keegan Daniel and Patrick Lambie.
The 20-year-old Lambie won the man-of-the-match award in last Saturday’s Currie Cup final after a two-try, 25-point haul.
Springboks head coach de Villiers said: “It’s a new-look side but with 13 season-ending injuries, it couldn’t be anything else.
“But we’re looking on the positive side and this is a great opportunity to test some new players in the toughest conditions.
“We also have a number of senior players returning to the team after long lay-offs for one reason or another and they are keen to restake their claim to a starting place.
“We’ve not had much time to bed this new team together but the players have worked hard all week to be as well prepared as we possibly can be.”
Front row duo Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis will make their first appearances of the season this weekend, while powerful lock Bakkies Botha returns after suspension.
Ulster’s Ruan Pienaar returns to the number 9 jersey which he last wore against Australia last July, while winger Bjorn Basson and centre Zane Kirchner make their first appearances since June.
IRELAND: Rob Kearney; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tony Buckley, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Stephen Ferris, David Wallace, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Tom Court, Donnacha Ryan, Denis Leamy, Peter Stringer, Ronan O’Gara, Keith Earls.
SOUTH AFRICA: Gio Aplon; Bjorn Basson, Zane Kirchner, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana; Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar; Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield (capt), Deon Stegmann, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies.
Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, CJ van der Linde, Flip van der Merwe, Keegan Daniel, Francois Hougaard, Adi Jacobs, Patrick Lambie.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Bryce Lawrence, Keith Brown (both New Zealand)
Television Match Official: Hugh Watkins (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ireland to win: 4/6; Draw: 19/1; South Africa to win: 6/5
Pre-Match Quotes: Mick O’Driscoll (Ireland) – “We have to perform to the best of our ability and hope that will be good enough because they (Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha) are a great combination. Together they have everything you’d look for in a second row.
“They’ve been together for a long time and are both very good players playing in a good team. It’ll be a tough assignment but we feel we can take it on.
“Technically you need one second row who is quite light and good in the air. Then you need one who is bulkier, more of a workhorse. One guy will be more of a technical lineout player, while one will do more of the hard work like mauling.
“But both players need to be able to do a bit of everything. Personally, I like lineouts and lineout organisation. I’ve always done it and find it pleasing when it goes right.
“The downside is that when things go wrong you bear the brunt of the blame.
“Looking back six or eight weeks ago, if someone said then I’d be starting against South Africa I might have been a little bit bemused.
“The situation at Munster helps. If Paul (O’Connell) is fit, you have four international locks within the squad so there will be disappointments.
“I was on the bench against Leinster and London Irish but then started against Toulon. If you do okay, then you’re literally in command.”
Victor Matfield (South Africa) – “We haven’t won in Dublin for 10 years but the only thing we are worried about is how Ireland play and the way we play on Saturday. We need to get a result. We had a little chat this morning about believing in ourselves.
“There aren’t a lot of people giving us a chance in this game and hopefully that will motivate the guys. This may be not be the most experienced side but we still think we’ve got a lot of talent.
“The important thing for us is not to worry about who are favourites or underdogs. We’ve got a job at hand and that’s what we are focusing on now.
“It doesn’t matter if we are underdogs or favourites, we know we are pulling on a Springbok jersey and we’ve got a job to do.
“It’s tough, especially for the guys that played in last weekend’s Currie Cup final. Some still want to celebrate, while some of them are a bit down.
“But the moment you put on that Springbok jersey, you need to be 100% focused. I believe the guys will be ready. We had a good three days in South Africa, training very hard.
“Jean’s pulled through, he will be ready. It’s great because he’s our leader in the back-line.
“It will be nice for me as well to have Jean there, making calls and keeping everything together. He’s a quality player so it’s great that he’s fit.”
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