Monday 17 December 2018

Bundee Aki set to make Ireland debut but fears for Keith Earls

Connacht man set for debut but winger an injury doubt

Bundee Aki during Ireland rugby squad training at Carton House
Bundee Aki during Ireland rugby squad training at Carton House
Keith Earls during an Ireland rugby press conference at Carton House in Maynooth, Kildare. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt is expected to name Bundee Aki in his team to face South Africa this afternoon, but the Ireland coach's focus is likely to be elsewhere as he counts the cost of a tough week's training.

Training-ground injuries for Keith Earls and Jack McGrath could rule them out of Saturday's game, while Sean O'Brien is also carrying a knock but is expected to be picked at No 7.

If Earls fails to prove his fitness, Andrew Conway will come in for his fellow Munster man Earls on the right wing, with Jacob Stockdale in line for the biggest game of his career on the left, and Rob Kearney is the favourite to complete the back-three.

Aki will be reunited with his old Connacht partner Robbie Henshaw in the centre, while Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton will line up at half-back.

Up front, Cian Healy will be asked to carry his fine Leinster form into an Ireland jersey alongside Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong in McGrath's absence, with Dave Kilcoyne on the bench. Iain Henderson will join Devin Toner in the second-row, while James Ryan could get the nod for the bench ahead of Ultan Dillane. Peter O'Mahony is set to join O'Brien and CJ Stander in an all-Lions back-row.

Possible Ireland team to face South Africa - R Kearney; K Earls/A Conway, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Furlong; I Henderson, D Toner; P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, CJ Stander. Reps: R Herring, D Kilcoyne, John Ryan, James Ryan, K Marmion, J Carbery, A Conway/D Kearney.

 

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