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21st Mar 2024

Ireland team Andy Farrell should start to take on the world champion Springboks

Patrick McCarry

Ireland team

Four changes from the XV that started the Six Nations finale.

Andy Farrell is taking his Ireland team to take on the world champion Springboks in a two-Test series, this summer, and it will have the rugby world rapt.

Before they came a cropper against England, many pundits and current players – such as Sam Warburton and Jamie George – had put this Ireland team up as the best in the business. Even after that result, Scotland captain, Finn Russell and coach, Gregor Townsend maintained Ireland are the world’s best.

You can bet that such comments did not take long to circulate and ruminate down in South Africa, home of the back-to-back, and reigning, World Cup-winning Springbok side. We all know how to settle this one – a two-Test tilt between the sides ranked No.1 and 2 in the world.

Sure enough, as the fixture slate would have it, Ireland face the Boks on July 6 and 13, in Pretoria and Durban. Ireland last travelled to the Rainbow Nation in 2016, when Joe Schmidt was head coach, and won the First Test, even though CJ Stander had been red-carded in the first half. They lost the two remaining Tests, after that first and historic triumph on South African soil, and lost the series 2-1.

Following Ireland’s 17-13 win over Scotland, which clinched the 2024 Six Nations, Andy Farrell gave his thoughts on that upcoming tour. He said:

“Yeah, it doesn’t get any more difficult, does it, or any more exciting than that. All you want is an opportunity not put yourself out there against the best and South Africa are 100% the best, so being able to go out there and test ourselves over there… we’ve managed to win one game over there before. To be able to play two games and test ourselves will be great for our development, going forward.”

Looking ahead to that tour, we have selected a strong Ireland team that would certainly put it up to Rassie Erasmus’ side at Loftus Versfeld. In the grand scheme, some of the toughest calls came at centre, back row and how to split up the bench.

Ireland team
Joe McCarthy, Caelan Doris and Hugo Keenan are all in our Ireland team to face South Africa. (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile)

Ireland team changes we would make for South Africa

Andy Farrell’s Ireland team are recognised as the best team in the northern hemisphere, despite another World Cup trip that ended at the quarter final stage. England have shown signs of life but the men in green remain the standard bearers.

By the end of 2024, Ireland will know exactly where they stand, as they will have faced all their Six Nations rivals, Fiji and the southern hemisphere big names, Argentina, South Africa (twice), Australia and New Zealand. Asked, on Saturday, if he saw more room for growth in hi squad, Farrell said:

“I mean, to be consistently at your best is probably impossible but that is what we’re going after like I keep on saying. But when class players drop out of the squad, it’s always going to take time to build back up and if you can do that winning, or learning from the experiences like at Twickenham or whatever, then that’s all well and good. But the reality is that there’s plenty more in us and there has to be for what’s coming for the rest of the year.”

Heading into the summer, the IRFU will hope to have Mack Hansen, Jimmy O’Brien, Iain Henderson and Rob Herring to call on, should Farrell require them. A time-frame for the return of James Ryan (bicep injury) has not been confirmed. He will be striving to get back playing before the end of the season. Our team selection covers the eventuality that he is out.

Peter O’Mahony is set to make a decision on his Test future, in the coming days, but it looks likely that the Six Nations was his last dance. The Ireland captain says he is ‘still loving it’ with the senior squad, though. One imagines his teammates and coaches may have tried convince him to stick around, at least, until the South Africa tour. He may surprise us yet, but we are planning without him.

The big debate here may be how to load the bench, as South Africa proved, late last year, they are happy to go with forwards-heavy 6:2 and 7:1 bench splits. If we had our way, Cian Prendergast and Nick Timoney would get some run-outs in the Connacht and Ulster backlines before the season was over, turning them into Irish versions of Kwagga Smith.

You will note Garry Ringrose has returned to partner Bundee Aki in the centre. This is a personal preference for what touch extra Ringrose brings in attack to that Irish backline. If Farrell sticks with the in-form Robbie Henshaw, though, you were hear no grumblings from this corner.


15. Hugo Keenan
14. Mack Hansen
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Bundee Aki
11. James Lowe
10. Jack Crowley
9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. Andrew Porter
2. Dan Sheehan
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Joe McCarthy
5. Tadhg Beirne
6. Ryan Baird
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Caelan Doris (captain)

Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Finlay Bealham, James Ryan/Iain Henderson, Tom Ahern, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Ciáran Frawley.

Whatever way it shakes out, that two-Test series should be a cracker.


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