The eyes of the rugby world will be on the Stade de France tonight as Ireland aim to take a giant step towards the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals by beating reigning champions South Africa.
RUGBY WORLD CUP POOL B:
Saturday, September 23 –
SOUTH AFRICA (2nd) v IRELAND (1st), Stade de France, 9pm local time/8pm Irish time (live RTÉ 2/RTÉ Player/UTV/ITV 1/RTÉ Radio 1/BBC Radio 5 Live/BBC Radio Ulster/IRFU Live Blog)
Team News: After back-to-back bonus point wins over Romania and Tonga, table toppers Ireland continue their Pool B campaign against South Africa, who are close behind them in second place in the World Rugby rankings.
In-form centre Bundee Aki, who made his Ireland debut against the Springboks in November 2017, will win his 50th cap in Paris. He partners Garry Ringrose in midfield for the third consecutive match.
Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen and James Lowe continue together in the back-three, with Jamison Gibson-Park, the only change from the Tonga game, partnering captain and record points scorer Jonathan Sexton at half-back.
Head coach Andy Farrell has selected an unchanged pack from last week’s outing in Nantes. Ronan Kelleher packs down again with Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong in the front row. Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan complete the tight five.
The back row trio is made up of Leinster pair Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris, and Peter O’Mahony who will make his 100th international appearance, including his one British & Irish Lions Test cap from 2017.
Having recovered from his foot injury, Dan Sheehan is set to make his World Cup debut off the bench. Dave Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson and Ryan Baird are the other forward options, while Conor Murray, Jack Crowley and Robbie Henshaw are the replacement backs.
Speaking ahead of the heavyweight encounter, Farrell said: “We just want Jamo being himself and producing the form he has produced for us throughout his time as an international. The pace and skill-set he brings to our game is something we all enjoy watching.
“Dan is obviously fit and raring to go and in fine condition. He’s a world-class hooker in my opinion and he gets his chance to get his tournament under way.
“There are plenty (of tough selection decisions), constantly. The conversations I have to have during the week are difficult ones because they all want to play and deservedly so because they are good players in their own right.
“We have got to make the right decision for the team for this particular game and those conversations are never easy, but the players make them easier because they understand the team always comes first.”
He added: “It’s a big game, there will be over 30,000 Irish supporters in a stadium we know well. We want to get back to winning ways there (after losing to France in 2022), so it is a challenge we are ready for, looking forward to and it is coming soon.”
Meanwhile, for their Saint-Denis showdown with Ireland, South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has made 13 personnel changes and one position switch, as well as opting for a seven-one split on the bench.
In a team led by 78-times capped flanker Siya Kolisi, nine players who sat out last Sunday’s 76-0 victory over Romania return to the starting line-up. Four others move up from the bench for this pivotal contest in the tournament’s ‘group of death’.
Hooker Bongi Mbonambi and Damian Willemse, who shifts to full-back to accommodate Manie Libbok’s inclusion at out-half, are the only two players retained. It is the same starting side from the 18-3 first round defeat of Scotland, apart from the absence of the injured Malcolm Marx (knee).
The Springboks’ forward-laden bench features Munster second row duo Jean Kleyn and RG Snyman, along with Deon Fourie, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Marco van Staden and the versatile Kwagga Smith. Cobus Reinach is the only specialist back.
South Africa will wear their third kit (white jerseys and ‘hyper-jade’ shorts) to avoid a clash with Ireland under World Rugby’s initiative to make the match more accessible to the estimated one in 12 males and one in 200 females who have colour vision deficiency (CVD).
SOUTH AFRICA: Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers); Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls), Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Damian de Allende (Wild Knights), Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath); Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers), Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles); Steven Kitshoff (Ulster), Bongi Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Eben Etzebeth (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Siya Kolisi (Racing 92) (capt), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers).
Replacements: Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers), Ox Nche (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92), Jean Kleyn (Munster), RG Snyman (Munster), Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls), Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs), Cobus Reinach (Montpellier).
IRELAND: Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster); Mack Hansen (Galway Corinthians/Connacht), Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster), Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht), James Lowe (Leinster); Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster); Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster), Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster), Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster), Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster), James Ryan (UCD/Leinster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster), Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster).
Replacements: Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht), Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster), Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster), Jack Crowley (Cork Constitution/Munster), Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster).
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), James Doleman (New Zealand)
Television Match Official: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Pre-Match Quotes: Paul O’Connell (Ireland) –
It’s going to take a big performance for sure. They are an excellent side, they have been together a long time as a group and a coaching group, they understand how they want to play and deal with certain situations in a game.
“They have developed their game since the last World Cup and a lot since last November in particular. Our boys are under no doubt about how big a challenge it is.
“They obviously present a big physical challenge – I think we present a big physical challenge as well – but also a really technical challenge. They are a very smart side. That is probably one of the things you admire the most, the smarts they can bring along with their physicality.
“It’s a strength of our side as well. We speak about this Irish team and what they stand for. They have got to bring everything they have brought to big occasions over the last few years – a Test series decider down in New Zealand in Wellington, a Grand Slam decider, a tough autumn series against some very tricky opposition.
“We have always found a way and figured it out and it is a real strength of the players. They are going to have play super well (on Saturday) but also figure things out, which is something I really enjoy watching them do when they have a challenge in front of them.”
Jacques Nienaber (South Africa) –
Ireland are a quality team with a strong pack of forwards and talented backs, and they play with a lot of speed, so we know what we have to do to deliver a top-drawer performance for things to go our way.
“We faced them late last year and we’ve been keeping an eye on their performances this year, so everyone knows what we have to do this weekend.
“We’re fortunate to have a match-fit squad and have been building depth and versatility for a while and believe this is the best combination for this match.
“For many of these players this is their second or third World Cup, so they know what it takes to perform at this level, and we believe this team has the right balance of players to achieve what we would like to achieve in this match.
“We know it’s going to be a grind of a match and we know we need to pitch up physically and mentally. We also need to start with intensity and stay focused until the final whistle.
“This is a massive game for both sides with an eye to progressing out of our pool, so we need to be extremely accurate in all areas of our game.”
Pre-Match Videos –
Recent Meetings –
2016: Summer Tour First Test: South Africa 20 Ireland 26, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town; Summer Tour Second Test: South Africa 32 Ireland 26, Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg; Summer Tour Third Test: South Africa 19 Ireland 13, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
2017: Guinness Series: Ireland 38 South Africa 3, Aviva Stadium
2022: Bank of Ireland Nations Series: Ireland 19 South Africa 16, Aviva Stadium