The no-messing-about Ireland team Andy Farrell should start against Australia
Expect the big boys to return, but there could be a new-look centre partnership.
On Thursday, Andy Farrell will name his final Ireland team of 2022. His side are Triple Crown champions and beat New Zealand in an away Test Series, but he will be conscious that defeat to Australia, next weekend, would take a sheen off matters.
Ireland have beaten South Africa and Fiji in the Bank of Ireland Nations Series and, next Saturday, face a Wallabies side that have lost two thrillers, to France and Italy.
Following Ireland's 35-17 win over Fiji, on Saturday, Farrell took a cut off his team's "awful" performance. While he praised the three new caps - Jeremy Loughman, Cian Prendergast and Jack Crowley - for pushing through in this Test window, he was not so complimentary of the entire group. He declared:
"Any Test match win should be celebrated, especially when you’ve got three lads making their debuts and Tadhg captaining the side for the first time. But as far as the performance is concerned, pretty underwhelming. When you look back and analyse a performance like that, you will get plenty of learnings out of it."
Given the tone of Farrell's press conference, and pitch-side, comments, we are expecting Australia to be met with a full metal jacket Ireland XV in the host's final Test match of an encouraging 2022.
Andy Farrell to name strong Ireland team
After the team selection was made for the Fiji game, Andy Farrell said Hugo Keenan, Johnny Sexton, Josh van der Flier and Andrew Porter were all carrying knocks.
We know that Conor Murray is definitely out of the picture and Monday will tell us whether Robbie Henshaw will follow the Munster scrumhalf out of the squad. Joey Carbery took a hit to the head, forcing him off, but Farrell will be hopeful of being able to call on the versatile back. Should Carbery get ruled out though, we could see Jack Crowley on the bench, backing up Johnny Sexton.
The Ireland pack all but selects itself, especially if van der Flier passes fitness markers. Nick Timoney did well against Fiji, but Jack Conan should get that back row replacement gig.
The biggest selection quandary will come when Farrell learns more on Robbie Henshaw. We suspect Ireland were err on the side of caution, and Henshaw will not feature. That leaves the head coach with a decision - keep Stuart McCloskey at No.12 or bring back Bundee Aki, fresh from his eight-week suspension.
Selection for the Test side can not come easy, so it will be interesting to see if Farrell keeps Aki waiting for another start until the 2023 Six Nations. McCloskey, in fairness, has done well in his two starts in this Test window.
IRELAND TEAM TO FACE SOUTH AFRICA
15. Hugo Keenan
14. Rob Baloucoune
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Stuart McCloskey
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Jamison Gibson-Park
1. Andrew Porter
2. Dan Sheehan
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. James Ryan
6. Peter O'Mahony
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris
Replacements: Rob Herring, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Conan, Craig Casey, Joey Carbery, Bundee Aki.
LISTEN TO HOUSE OF RUGBY HERE:
- "Spuds, gravy, the mother's Sunday roast!" - Tadhg Furlong's first interview as Ireland captain was a classic
- Ireland's first names on the team-sheet, as Top 5 players debated
- Conor Murray on Keith Earls' incredibly personal pre-match gesture before his 100th cap