Ireland call up Gibson-Park for showdown with SA
Scrumhalf is the only change in team that defeated Tonga
Paris — Ireland named scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park in their only change for the crunch Rugby World Cup pool B clash with SA in Paris on Saturday as coach Andy Farrell selected an unchanged pack with a 5-3 split between forwards and backs on the bench.
The fixture is expected to go a long way to deciding who finishes top of the group. The winning side, if there is one, will have one foot in the quarterfinals.
It is also a meeting between the two top ranked teams in the world, with Ireland looking to keep their place at the summit, earned on the back of a superb run of 15 wins in a row.
Johnny Sexton will lead the side from flyhalf alongside Gibson-Park, who is the only change from the team that defeated Tonga 59-16 in their previous game.
Conor Murray drops to the bench as one of three backline options among the replacements along with flyhalf Jack Crowley and centre Robbie Henshaw.
SA’s decision to choose seven forwards on the bench was never likely to change Ireland’s plans but could be a factor in the final 20 minutes if they hold the physical edge and are able to produce greater speed at the breakdown.
Mack Hansen and James Lowe will be the two Ireland wings, Hugo Keenan is at fullback and Bundee Aki will win a 50th cap at centre as part of a midfield that also includes Garry Ringrose.
Hooker Ronan Kelleher will have props Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong either side of him and the second row contains Tadhg Beirne and James Ryan.
Caelan Doris is at number eight with Peter O’Mahony and Josh van der Flier the two flankers.
Hooker Dan Sheehen has recovered from injury to be named among the replacements for what would be his World Cup debut.
Ireland beat SA 19-16 when the teams last met in Dublin last November and have won seven of the past 11 against the Springboks.
Somewhat surprisingly this will be the first meeting between the two teams at a World Cup.
Team: Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Johnny Sexton, Jamison Gibson-Park,Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne, James Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris
Replacements: Dan Sheehan, David Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Iain Henderson, Ryan Baird, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Robbie Henshaw.
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