Ireland name novice pack for SA
Injury-ravaged Ireland will field an inexperienced pack against South Africa on Saturday with Springbok native Richardt Strauss making his debut in the first of two tests with big implications for coach Declan Kidney.
Ireland, who face Argentina later this month, could slip out of the world's eight highest-ranked teams and find themselves unseeded for the World Cup in 2015 if they have a bad November and other results go against them.
Kidney is also fighting to earn a new contract when his current one ends next year and will have to do it the hard way without first-team regulars Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Paul O'Connell, Stephen Ferris, Sean O'Brien andRory Best.
Connacht second row Mike McCarthy, Ulster flanker Chris Henry and Munster duo Peter O'Mahony and Simon Zebo were among those named to fill the gaps and will each start an international for just the second time.
"You always hoped it would be drip fed rather than on block but you need to be planning for the future," said Kidney who handed the captaincy to No 8 Jamie Heaslip in O'Driscoll's absence.
"I remember a good few years ago six guys came in and got their first caps together, they wanted to keep the jersey and they did so who knows," Kidney added, referring to a famous win over Scotland 12 years ago whenRonan O'Gara, Peter Stringer, John Hayes and Shane Horgan were among the debutants.
Ulster flanker Iain Henderson, who has played just six times for the province, could also take the field for Irelandfor the first time on Saturday after being named on the bench alongside uncapped props David Kilcoyne and Michael Bent.
Bruising Leinster hooker Strauss, who starts for the first time after living in Ireland for the three years required to switch allegiances, will also come face to face with his cousin Adriaan who was named at hooker for the similarly injury-hit South Africans.
Richardt said he had not really spoken to his cousin this week and that it mattered little that his debut was against the country he grew up playing rugby in.
"For me it's probably more special just to run our for Ireland than anything else, I would have taken it if it was against an Under 13 'B' team," he told a news conference.
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 (capt), 7-Chris Henry, 6-Peter O'Mahony, 5-Donnacha Ryan, 4-Mike McCarthy, 3-Mike Ross, 2-Richardt Strauss, 1-Cian Healy
Replacements: 16-Sean Cronin, 17-David Kilcoyne, 18-Michael Bent, 19-Donncha O'Callaghan, 20-Iain Henderson, 21-Eoin Reddan, 22-Ronan O'Gara, 23-Fergus McFadden.