Monday 23 April 2018

Simon Easterby backs Ireland trio to impress on 'home' soil

Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby says the touring side's South African-born players are determined to show the locals what they're missing during the three-Test series.

CJ Stander, Richardt Strauss and Quinn Roux are all part of the 31-man travelling party that touched down in Cape Town on Monday ahead of Saturday's first Test.

Ireland have no injury worries ahead of the opening game, with Stander likely to start in the back row and Strauss expected to provide back-up for captain Rory Best at hooker.

All three qualified to play for their adopted nation through residency and are likely to get a hostile reception at Newlands - b ut former Lions flanker Easterby says they are equally keen to prove their worth on home soil.

"CJ's shown with his form over the last three seasons with Munster, he's been outstanding. He's been a real talisman for them," he said. "He's come into our Six Nations squad and done particularly well.

"He plays with his heart on his sleeve and is a real leader. He'll be emotional at the weekend along with Quinn and Richardt.

"They are guys that are very passionate about where they were brought up but hugely passionate about wearing the green jersey.

"To a man that has come through, not just in this week since arriving in South Africa but also the build-up.

"You get a sense that they're very keen to show the country that they were born in what they're missing."

Ireland are missing a host of big names for the tour, with Johnny Sexton, Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, Cian Healy and Rob Kearney among those who missed out through injury.

Yet Easterby believes the absence of such key players will provide an opportunity for others to step in and step up.

"Every team will travel, I'm sure, from the northern hemisphere this summer without certain players; we're no different. What it does do is to allow us to view these players up close for the next three weeks," he said.

"Players who have stood up domestically in the Pro12 throughout the season have been given the opportunity. It will build some depth and they can lay a marker down for the guys that aren't here.

"For me, it's great. We build some depth looking ahead to (the World Cup in) 2019 and we'll find out a lot about players in a really intense environment against one of the best sides in the world."

While they are missing key backs, Easterby is confident in the forwards available will be able to match the might of the Springboks.

"We have more experience in the forward pack than maybe the backline but that challenge, for us to give quality front-foot ball to our backs, is something that we're fully aware of," he said.

"It's a challenge that we know is going to be really difficult to do and countered by strong South Africa forward packs.

"It's important that we try to give a platform to players that have come in and some of those exciting, young and maybe a little bit more inexperienced backs than we've had in the past - but there's still some quality and experience there to choose from as well.

"So that forward platform is no different, whether you've got a very experienced backline or not.

"We know how important the battle with the scrum, the lineout and in particular the maul is going to be.

"Whenever we play South Africa, the lads know they've been in a game.

"It can be an arm wrestle at times and it's important that we stay focused and get the most out of our opportunities when they arrive but also we try to negate the strengths, of which there are many, of the South African eight."

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt announces his team for the first Test on Thursday.

Press Association

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