Joe Schmidt offers interesting reasons for picking two bolters to face the Springboks
For the second week in a row, Joe Schmidt raised a few eyebrows with his team selection.
Ahead of the first test in South Africa, the Kiwi finally shifted Jared Payne to fullback, which paid off handsomely during Ireland's historic first away win over the Springboks. This weekend's game in Johannesburg will be at altitude, which might explain why the Ireland boss has opted to make so many changes to his victorious side.
There are five new faces in the first XV and six on the bench, as Ireland look for a victory that would seal a sensational series triumph.
Tadhg Furlong, Quinn Roux, Craig Gilroy, Stuart Olding and Rhys Ruddock will all start this Saturday.
Schmidt faced the media today and revealed that none of his changes were injury-enforced, although CJ Stander misses out through suspension.
“I’d just say it was open ended at the start of the tour, we brought 32 players with us and this will mean 30 of those 32 will have had a matchday involvement and that was probably something that we had spoken about in the coaching group to offer opportunity to players while at the same time being very conscious of the quality of our opposition and how enthusiastic we were about trying to as competitive as we could be," Schmidt said.
The Ireland boss also rejected the suggestion that he was saving players like Mike Ross and Ultan Dillane for the third test the following weekend.
“I think that’s probably an insult to the players that have come in to be honest," he said.
"I think the players who have come in, I’m really hoping that they will pleasantly surprise just as the players who were probably undervalued a little bit last week."
The biggest surprise when Schmidt named his team was the inclusion of Connacht lock Roux. The South African-born second row couldn't force his way into the Connacht 23 during their Pro12 run-in but interestingly, the Ireland coach said he is offering him a chance to develop on the international stage, after missing out on the opportunity at club level.
“I think one of the things for us is Quinn very much a very good set piece player," Schmidt said.
"I think in the scrum and lineout, I think he’s very proficient in those two areas and he’s trained incredibly well since he’s been with us. I know Quinn very well from having coached him for two years previously and during those two years he struggled to get real rhythm because he had a number of injuries and every time he got back playing, he unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to have a succession of games that would have allowed him I think to progress.
"We’ve seen a bit of that progress in Connacht this season and I guess we’re challenging him to progress a bit further in that international arena."
Schmidt was also full of praise for inside centre Stuart Olding, who he compared to an Irish legend. The Ulster attacker will win just his third cap on Saturday.
“I think he’s maybe a little more in the Gordon D’Arcy mould, a guy with some footwork and some ability to play as a second receiver," Schmidt said.
"I think he punches above his weight just as Gordon D’Arcy did. They’re quite similar in that they both distribute smart, opportune passes when it's on, and they carry when it’s the right thing to do and they work hard away from the ball to try to get back into positions where they can get back onto the ball."