CIAN HEALY, MIKE ROSS and Richardt Strauss – looks like Ireland’s front row is going to hold its own for about 60 minutes.
Amid the calamity of injuries, Michael Bent being met at Dublin Airport with a team tracksuit and a captaincy conundrum, Richardt Strauss has slipped into the Irish front row with a minimum of fuss.
Ireland now have the front-three that started the 2011 and 2012 Heineken Cup wins and, with Rory Best’s neck injury ruling him out of the Guinness Series, the naturalisation of Pretoria native Strauss could not have come at a better time.
He told TheScore.ie, “I made my commitment to Ireland three years ago and I’m really happy to get this opportunity. It will probably be more special to run out for Ireland than anything else.
“I would have taken [the cap] if I was running out against Malahide Under-13s B team, you know.”
Malahide Under-13s B team can rest easy – the hooker has a date with the Springboks, and his cousin Adriaan, on Saturday.
Dedicated to the role
Ireland coach Declan Kidney believes Strauss’ debut will be a huge challenge for him but he is convinced that he has picked the right man for the job.
He said, “It’s always a big step up from provincial to international rugby but the way he has gone about his business this week has been very good.
The best compliment I can give him is to get in ahead of the quality of the other guys that are competing with him, is the best compliment he can get. He knows what he’s going to have to do to stay there.
“It’s my first time working with him directly,” Kidney added. “We called him into camp last year when we needed a hooker in, which was unusual.
“We knew from about 18 months out the way that he had dedicated himself to the Leinster cause that this day would come.”
Proper respect from ‘Church’
Cian Healy, who has played alongside Strauss for the past three and a half seasons, will not have to worry about shepherding Strauss through his international debut.
He told TheScore.ie, “I won’t have to mind Straussy at all. He’s more than capable. He’s been planning this for a few years now and working towards that goal.
“He’ll be eager to get out there and have a pop off them.”
The loosehead also revealed that Adriaan Strauss might be in for a special, Lansdowne Road welcome this weekend.
“We know about his cousin, yeah,” he said. “It might be nice to work in on the front row and do a bit of a job on him. Make it an extra special day for Straussy.”
As for the ‘fresh faces’ of Dave Kilcoyne and Bent, Healy admitted that they had himself and Leinster colleague Mike Ross in a spot of bother in training over the past week.
The faces of Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira may not be as fresh on Saturday and they may be even less accommodating.