Ahead of Ireland’s clash with South Africa later this month, Aled Price analyses which assortment of players could cause the Springboks some serious problems.
1. Jack McGrath
The Leinster prop is a cornerstone of the Irish pack, a colossal scrummager and tireless work horse he has been undroppable since making his debut in 2013, amassing 41 caps.
Against a weak South African pack compared to seasons past he should dominate collisions on Saturday.
2. Rory Best (C)
Over 100 caps for Ireland, captaining the side last year in the history-making victory over the All Blacks. A fierce defender, scrummaging specialist and inspiring leader.
3. Tadhg Furlong
The behemoth from Leinster burst onto the scene in 2015 and has been one of the first names on the team sheet ever since.
Starting all three Tests this summer for the Lions in New Zealand, Furlong proved himself as the best tighthead in world rugby against the world champions.
4. Ian Henderson
The Ulsterman was a revelation this summer in New Zealand. Often deployed at 6 in the PRO14, on an International level he is best utilised in the second row. Barnstorming runs, deft offloads and industrious work-rate are to be expected.
5. Kieran Treadwell
With Joe Schmidt alluding to youth over experience in his squad selection, we’ve opted for the 6ft 6in Harlequins academy graduate.
At only 22 years old his potential is enormous. Turning in several eye-catching performances the last two seasons, he was rewarded with a call-up for the summer series in Japan making his debut in the first Test.
6. Peter O’Mahony
A sensational run of form at the end of last season saw him rise from Six Nations sub to Lions captain all in the space of four months.
A marvellous lineout technician and tenacious tackler, he offers a leadership that is surely needed without the company of the injured Jamie Heaslip.
7. Sean O’Brien
The ‘Tank from Tullow’ is a beast of a man, combining brute strength with a phenomenal rugby brain.
An ever-present in the loose as well as a master at the breakdown the often injury-plagued backrower will cause South Africa a multitude of problems. A loud presence in the media recently, hopefully his rugby can do the talking now.
8. CJ Stander
The South African convert has been immense since moving to Munster in 2015. Taking to international rugby like a duck to water, his trademark gallops out wide flattening opposition backs should terrify the country of his birth.
Looking to put a disappointing Lions series behind him, expect a big performance on Saturday.
9. Conor Murray
Arguably the best scrum-half in the world, he scored the decisive try in the second Lions Test this summer.
Starting all three games versus the All Blacks his constant sniping and impeccable kicking game are a nightmare for any side to contend with. A massive presence and fearless leader, the 57 times-capped 9 is set to terrorise South Africa on Saturday.
10. Johnny Sexton
The irrepressible fly-half is back to his creative best this season after a strong showing at the tail end of the season, impressing at 10 in the last two games of the Lions Test series.
Already setting Leinster’s attack alight in the PRO14, he is an automatic selection in a green jersey when fit. Ireland’s talisman, when he is fit and firing they can beat any team in the world.
11. Jacob Stockdale
The young man from Ulster has a talent that cannot be coached, a knack of crossing the tryline.
The precocious talent has started the season strongly with the northernmost province and adding to his two caps seems a certainty.
12. Robbie Henshaw
Still only 24, the fullback-cum-centre is now an integral part of this Irish side. Now up to 29 international caps, he was rewarded for his continuously fine performances for Ireland in recent seasons with a Lions call-up this summer.
With playmakers and flyers outside him Henshaw will be entrusted to get his side over the gainline against South Africa, a crucial battle to win if they are to emerge victorious in Dublin.
13. Bundee Aki
Mesmeric since joining Connacht three years ago, the Kiwi finally qualified for Ireland this season.
With power, pace and an explosive step, expect the ex-Chiefs player to be an instrumental part of this Irish side. Whilst eligibility rules may be questionable, needing only three years in Ireland to qualify, his ability as a rugby player is profound.
14. Keith Earls
Providing some experience in an inexperienced and youthful back three, the versatile back has been in scintillating try-scoring form for both club and country in recent seasons.
Collecting 62 caps since making his debut in 2009 he is a player Joe Schmidt trusts implicitly.
15. Joey Carbery
The Kiwi-born playmaker is a natural fly-half, but such has been his scintillating form he must figure somewhere for Ireland.
Only 22 years old, he is the heir to Sexton’s throne. Against a brutish South African side, a player with the subtlety and skill of Carbery could be perfect to unlock the rainbow nation.
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Read More About: bundee aki, cj stander, conor murray, ian henderson, ireland rugby, irish rugby, jack mcgrath, Jacob Stockdale, Joey Carbery, Johnny Sexton, Keith Earls, kieran treadwell, peter o'mahony, Robbie Hens, Rory Best, sean o'brien, south africa rugby, tadhg furlong