Ireland head coach Andy Farrell could have strong hand to deal from for Springboks clash

Josh van der Flier in line to return to training on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s game

Tom Ahern has been ruled out of next Friday’s game against the All Blacks XV at the RDS (kick-off 7.45pm) and has been replaced by Connacht’s Gavin Thornbury, who was one of the dozen additional players added to the full 37-man squad on Sunday night.

Diarmuid Barron, Caolin Blade, Jack Crowley, Shane Daly, Max Deegan, James Hume, Dave Kilcoyne, Marty Moore and Scott Penny all came through the weekend’s URC action without issue to join the squad, while Jamie Osborne and Roman Salanoa have both been declared fit after completing the return to play protocols.

There were no further updates regarding the 37-man squad who will renew preparations their opening Bank of Ireland Nations Series games against world champions South Africa at Aviva Stadium (Saturday, kick-off 5.30pm). That appears to suggest that despite manifold injury concerns going into last week’s get-together, Andy Farrell will have a full squad from which to select the matchday 23. That will be announced on Thursday.

This is on the presumption that Josh van der Flier will be reintegrated to training on Tuesday, on foot of Hugo Keenan and Jamison Gibson-Park – who have yet to play any rugby for Leinster this season – taking a full part in Ireland training last week. Likewise, so did Tadhg Furlong, who has only played 40 minutes for Leinster this season, Peter O’Mahony and Tadhg Beirne.


Conceivably, therefore, Farrell could reselect up to a dozen of the 13 ever-present starters in their historic series win over New Zealand, with the exception of the injured James Lowe, while of the 18 players who started one or more of those three Tests, the only other absentees are the suspended Bundee Aki and the injured Keith Earls.

The Springboks’ preparations were disrupted by a five-hour delay en route from South Africa in Dubai, meaning the bulk of their squad did not arrive until late on Sunday night.

Winger Sbu Nkosi and backrower Marco van Staden did not make the trip after both picked up rib injuries in the Bulls’ win over the Sharks on Sunday, leaving Rassie Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber with a 33-man squad at their Dublin base.

An 11-strong contingent of their European-based players had gathered earlier on Sunday under assistant coach Felix Jones. Cheslin Kolbe was the last of the squad to arrive on Monday, having played in Toulon’s 27-26 defeat away to Bordeaux-Begles in Sunday’s Top 14 late night game.

Even so, the Springboks are expected to name their side on Tuesday, and one that closely resembles their World Cup final XV which beat England in Tokyo three years ago.

All told, up to 11 of that starting XV are liable to feature against Ireland, the exceptions being the injured Lukhanyo Am and Handre Pollard, the retired Tendai Mtawarira and the omitted Duane Vermeulen.

They have also travelled with four of their so-called Bomb Squad from their 6-2 split on the bench in that final, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch and Franco Mostert, the only exceptions being the injured RG Snyman and the retired Francois Louw, while another of their matchday 23 Frans Steyn, has been rested from this tour.

“We were very fortunate that Felix joined the squad on Sunday as he had a golden opportunity to work with the DHL Stormers and overseas-based players on some detail while the rest of us were travelling,” said Nienaber.

“We allowed the players additional recovery time on Monday morning to ensure that they are fresh when we take the field in our afternoon training session so we can leap straight into the thick of things.

“This is a massive Test for us as Ireland are the number one team in the world and we are also facing them in the pool stages of next year’s Rugby World Cup, so every minute of preparation time on and off the field counts.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times