Sexton drafted in to tackle Boks
November 27, 2009
Victor Matfield starts for South Africa © Getty Images
Jonathan Sexton has beaten veteran Ronan O'Gara to the Ireland No.10 jersey for their long-awaited Croke Park showdown with South Africa on Saturday.
The 24-year-old Leinster fly-half made his Test debut against Fiji last weekend and his strong showing has been rewarded with a start alongside Munster scrum-half Tomas O'Leary. The bulk of the side remains the same as the one which drew 20-20 with Australia two weeks ago, although Munster's Keith Earls replaces the injured Luke Fitzgerald on the wing.
Paddy Wallace returns in the centre at the expense of Gordon D'Arcy, who drops to the bench, and Donncha O'Callaghan returns to partner Paul O'Connell in the second-row. Cian Healy is fit to return at loose-head, winning his second cap after missing the hit-out against Fiji with a shoulder knock.
Denis Leamy was named on the bench after fears for his fitness but was later replaced by Sean O'Brien while Peter Stringer has beaten Eoin Reddan to a place as O'Leary's back-up.
South Africa coach Peter De Villiers has made six changes to his side, including switching skipper John Smit to hooker in an attempt to shore up their shaky scrum. Smith has not started a Test in the No.2 jersey since the Springboks' win over England in 2008 and is joined in the front-row by Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira and one of three exiles in the side, Ulster's BJ Botha.
Another two are on the bench, where Leinster's CJ van der Linde returns from injury and there is a surprise call for Munster centre Jean de Villiers following an injury to Adi Jacobs. Wynand Olivier starts in place of Jacobs, alongside Jaque Fourie.
Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), P Wallace (Ulster), K Earls (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), T O'Leary (Munster); C Healy (Leinster), J Flannery (Munster), J Hayes (Munster); D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster)
Replacements: S Cronin (Connacht), T Buckley (Munster), L Cullen (Leinster), S O'Brien (Leinster), P Stringer (Munster), R O'Gara (Munster), G D'Arcy (Leinster)
South Africa: Z Kirchner (Blue Bulls); J Pietersen (Sharks), J Fourie (Lions), W Olivier (Blue Bulls), B Habana (Blue Bulls); M Steyn (Blue Bulls), F du Preez (Blue Bulls); T Mtawarira (Sharks), J Smit (Sharks, capt), BJ Botha (Ulster), B Botha (Blue Bulls), V Matfield (Blue Bulls), H Brussow (Cheetahs), S Burger (Western Province), D Rossouw (Blue Bulls).
Replacements: B du Plessis (Sharks), CJ van der Linde (Leinster) A Bekker (Western Province), J Deysel (Sharks), D Potgieter (Blue Bulls), R Pienaar (Sharks), J de Villiers (Munster)