Home Sport Ireland’s Farrell springs a surprise in squad selection

Ireland’s Farrell springs a surprise in squad selection

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Ireland coach Andy Farrell has pulled a rabbit out of the hat by picking an uncapped youngster at fullback in Jamie Osborne.

Jamie Osborne of Leinster Rugby will be at fullback for Ireland against the Springboks on Saturday. Picture: Simon King, ProSportsImages , DPPI via AFP

IRELAND coach Andy Farrell has pulled a rabbit out of the hat by picking an uncapped youngster at fullback in Jamie Osborne, a brave call indeed given that the Springbok playmakers will rain high balls on him all evening.

Veterans Hugo Keenan and Jimmy O’Brien have been left out for Osborne after the latter’s impressive season for Leinster in various positions in the backline, but he has played only a handful of games in the No.15 jersey.

It sounds like a gamble by Farrell but he has his reasons for going with the sturdy youngster.

“This selection of Jamie has been in the pipeline for some time and we have had him in our greater squad for a few seasons. He has impressed us with his skill set and we have always felt that his future is at fullback and that he is the man for this big Test match,” Farrell said.

“We are very interested to see how he takes this opportunity because he has a presence, no matter what position he plays.

“We feel he offers a new dimension to our game – he is bright in his play with soft hands, and he can hit the line. Defensively, he is very good in the air and has a great left boot.”

Unquestionably the Bok halfbacks of Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard will be licking their lips at the prospect of peppering the fullback with kicks that have gone high into the Loftus air. Osborne’s opposite number, Willie le Roux, is another renowned for putting fullbacks under pressure with his tactical kicking.

Farrell had another selection poser at outside centre where Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose have been battling it out for years to partner the bulldozing Bundee Aki. Henshaw has got the nod and his duel with Jesse Kriel will be a juicy one.

There are no surprises on the wings where Calvin Nash and James Lowe start, while Craig Casey will be the scrumhalf because of the injury to Jamison Gibson-Park.

As expected the URC Player of the Season Jack Crowley continues at flyhalf in the post-Jonny Sexton era.

There is a familiar look to the front row of Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong, while Tadhg Beirne again partners Joe McCarthy at lock.

Munster mongrel Peter O’Mahony captains the side and forms the loose trio with Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris in the back row. On the bench, Cian Healy, Ronan Kelleher and Finlay Bealham provide front-row cover.

Ireland XV (15-1): Jamie Osborne, Calvin Nash, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Jack Crowley, Craig Casey, Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Peter O’Mahony (captain), Tadhg Beirne, Joe McCarthy, Tadhg Furlong, Dan Sheehan, Andrew Porter. Replacements: 16 Ronan Kelleher, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 James Ryan, 20 Ryan Baird, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Ciaran Frawley, 23 Garry Ringrose.

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