5 Talking Points As Ireland Team Named For Springboks Test

Fresh blood.

Joe Schmidt has named his Ireland team for this weekend’s Test with South Africa, with the overall reaction seemingly positive.

Bundee Aki as expected comes straight into the starting line-up, making his debut at inside centre with old Connacht teammate Robbie Henshaw outside him.

Schmidt has said they he could see the duo linking up well instantly in training, with Stuart McCloskey and Chris Farrell unlucky to miss out on selection.

Elsewhere Keith Earls is out with a hamstring injury, and could miss the entire series. Munster teammate Andrew Conway will now get his chance with Darren Sweetnam set to debut off the bench.

Here are five talking points following Schmidt’s selection.

Zebo’s decision to leave, means it’s now Jacob Stockdale’s time to shine.

Much has been said about Schmidt’s decision to drop Simon Zebo, but you simply cannot complain about his replacement. Had Keith Earls have been fit he was always going to start on one wing, but it’s Jacob Stockdale who has been given the chance to replace Zebo. The Ulster star has been in fine form, with many fans calling for him to be included. He now has a huge chance to make his mark against one of the top nations. Andrew Conway and Darren Sweetnam have also benefitted from Zebo’s absence, being 1st and 2nd in line to replace Earls.

Bundee Aki starts.

Connacht centre Bundee Aki has been unfairly criticised in some parts of the media this week, but this hasn’t phased Schmidt, who has handed him a starting debut against the Boks. A massive game for Aki to be thrown into first time round, but he will be a lot more relaxed knowing he has old Connacht teammate Robbie Henshaw outside him. Aki offers Ireland a completely different option to what they’re used to, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on. Strength in depth is what Ireland are looking to achieve, and with Garry Ringrose still to come back, Schmidt is doing exactly that.

Kearney over Carbery.

Noticing a lot of people are complaining about this on social media, but think about it logically. Aki is making his debut, while Conway and Stockdale have a handful of caps between them. Kearney’s experienced shoulders are needed in that backline. Had Earls have been fit, maybe he might have gone with Carbery, but based on that backline, Rob is the correct choice.

Another chance to see the Lions back-row.

It’s incredible to think that we’ve only seen the back-row combination of Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien and CJ Stander start once for Ireland, against England in the Six Nations this year. When they are all fit, no doubt it’s Ireland’s best combination. Their battle against a monstrous Springbok pack is going to be hugely entertaining.

Carbery’s versatility gives Ireland more freedom.

Having someone like Joey Carbery on the bench gives Schmidt that added option on the bench, instead of having to have a specialist ten in reserve. Depending on how things are going, Schmidt can changes things up in a number of ways, using just one player. This may, or may not wirk against him going forward. Is he maybe for valuable to Schmidt as a versatile sub, rather than a starter?

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