Robbie Henshaw out of final South Africa test and will undergo knee surgery
Robbie Henshaw has been ruled out of Ireland’s third and final Test against South Africa and is returning to Ireland for surgery on his injured knee tonight.
The Leinster-bound centre is understood to have damaged his cartilage when tackling Lionel Mapoe during the second-half of his side’s 32-26 defeat to the Springboks in yesterday’s second Test and was replaced by Ian Madigan.
Joe Schmidt is unlikely to call up a replacement for the Athlone native and has options within his squad to fill the gap at outside centre.
Prior to this tour, Jared Payne has played all of his international rugby in the No 13 jersey and could revert there with Tiernan O'Halloran starting, while Luke Marshall could also return to the side alongside Stuart Olding who played at inside centre on Saturday.
Schmidt will be able to re-call CJ Stander for the third Test, while Ultan Dillane, Mike Ross, Jordi Murphy and Sean Cronin also come into the equation.
South Africa have injury worries of their own, with try-scorer Warren Whiteley struggling with his shoulder and Duane Vermeulen – who was replaced by Whiteley at half-time – suffering an elbow problem.
Ireland’s squad is already being tested at the end of this long season and Schmidt is having to promote untested talent like Olding whose previous caps came against the United States and Georgia.
Eighty minutes against the ‘Boks was a whole new level for the Ulster star.
And despite the disappointment of coughing up a 16 point lead in a dramatic final quarter, Olding is hungry for more.
“I loved every minute of it, it was great to be involved in that game and coming off the back of that win last week I just wanted to get involved as much as I possibly could,” he said.
“I thought I went alright, I slipped off a few tackles which I'm pretty disappointed in. It certainly was the toughest game I've played in.
“For young guys to get exposed to that experience is brilliant.
“We just have to learn from these things, whenever you're playing against the best teams in the world you've got to take it in. You can't let it pass you by.
“We've got to learn from it. For the young guys, we'd a few new caps today and hopefully we become better players for it.
“Everyone's hopeful that they'll get the shirt again next week. You want to be involved in those big games, especially a series decider.”
And Olding believes that Ireland can put together one last big performance on the final day of their season in Port Elizabeth next Saturday.
“Everyone's disappointed and a bit down but we'll lick our wounds, travel to Port Elizabeth and train well,” he said.
“I thought we controlled the game so well in the first half and to go in 19-3 at half-time, it's something special that we had.
“But fair play to South Africa, they came out of the blocks in that second half and really took the game to us with an early score.
“Whenever we got back with another score with the driving maul, I thought we were clawing it back in but they exploded in the last 20 minutes or so.
“We're hugely disappointed with how we played in the last 20, but we'll take positives from the first 60 minutes.
“So, we'll take from the positives and the negatives and go into next week all guns blazing.
“We'll have a good training week and then hopefully get the win on Saturday.”