Andy Farrell to give key Irish trio chance to prove fitness for Springboks showdown
The Ireland coaching staff are managing an extended squad of 49 players
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell will give three of his key players every chance to prove their fitness in time for Saturday’s clash with South Africa at the Aviva Stadium.
While Hugo Keenan and Jamison Gibson-Park made a welcome return to training last week, Josh van der Flier is due to step up his recovery from an ankle issue today.
Full-back Keenan (abdomen) and scrum-half Gibson-Park (hamstring) have not featured yet this season due to injury, and although their lack of match sharpness could be an issue against the world champions, they have plenty of credit in the bank.
Farrell will have to weigh up throwing Keenan, Gibson-Park and Van der Flier straight back into action, but the vital trio are expected to be available. In a further boost, Tadhg Furlong (ankle), Peter O’Mahony (neck), Tadhg Beirne (neck) and Craig Casey (groin) also trained last week.
The Ireland coaching staff are managing an extended squad of 49 players, with that number set to rise to 51 in the coming days ahead of Friday’s ‘A’ game against the All Blacks XV at the RDS.
Munster lock Tom Ahern is facing a spell on the sidelines due to a shoulder injury, with his absence paving the way for Connacht’s Gavin Thornbury to earn a call-up to the Ireland ‘A’ squad.
Jamie Osborne and Roman Salanoa have been passed fit after completing the return-to-play protocols. Ulster pair Nathan Doak and Tom Stewart will join the squad later in the week to add further options for the ‘A’ game.
Meanwhile, the Springboks will today name their team for Saturday’s showdown, with winger Sbu Nkosi and back-row Marco van Staden missing out due to rib injuries. However, Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have a strong squad to pick from, with star winger Cheslin Kolbe linking up with the main group, whose arrival in Dublin was late due a flight delay.