IRELAND V SOUTH AFRICA

Well, Ireland coach Declan Kidney has picked a very interesting team for the first match of the November series, against South Africa. A lot of new faces and combinations makes for a very exciting line-up. 9 of the starting 15 are playing their first game against South Africa. Quite an inexperienced side with 5 of the team having less than 10 caps (almost between them!).
 
Ireland: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Gordon D’Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Donncha O’Callaghan, 20 Iain Henderson, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ronan O’Gara, 23 Fergus McFadden
 
Simon Zebo is an interesting choice at full-back. He hasn’t played there since school, apparently. He’s an exciting player, however. He’s only got the one cap, against New Zealand (on the wing), but didn’t disgrace himself. He’s got very able back-up in Bowe and Trimble on the wings, both of whom can fill the full-back role if need be.
 
Earls is in at centre, alongside D’Arcy. This was inevitable really. He’s seems to be being groomed to take-over from O’Driscoll (eventually). He’s got the pace to go outside the Springbok back’s, and isn’t that much smaller than O’Driscoll, actually (same height/only a few pounds lighter), though O’Driscoll uses his size better. He’ll need to be up to the challenge defensively.
 
Murray is another surprising choice. He hasn’t been playing much better than Reddan or Boss (who isn’t selected). It seems to be a Kidney habit of mixing the provincial half-backs, with Sexton from Leinster and Murray from Munster. Sexton had a brilliant game against South Africa back in 2009, kicking all Ireland’s point’s to win the game. His performance a year later wasn’t as good.
 
Richard Strauss has been picked and will win his first cap for his adopted country against his former country-men. He’s joined in the front-row by his Leinster colleagues which should help ease the debut nerves.
 
I don’t know too much about Mike McCarthy but he seems to be doing great things for Connacht so he gets the nod ahead of Donncha O’Callaghan (who’s on the bench). He’s joined by Donncha Ryan in the second-row who did well in the summer series against New Zealand.
 
There’s two new flankers in Peter O’Mahony and Chris Henry. O’Mahony had a good game against New Zealand in the summer and makes his second start (from 8 caps). Henry has good credentials in captaining Ulster and is supposed to be a good ball-carrier.
 
Heaslip is captain and has seen a return to earlier form for Leinster. Let’s hope the team can do well, and that the absence of the big guns gives them motivation to make their mark on the international stage. 
 
The absence of the big gun’s is a shame but it gives the other’s a chance to shine and also, in the cases of O’Driscoll, O’Connell and Best, it provides a chance to find suitable replacements to those player’s that are close to retiring, possibly. Better to start those new player’s than to find, too late, that we have no-one to take-over from them. 

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