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Henshaw and Payne both start in midfield for Ireland's clash with the Boks

Mike Ross is fit to take his place at tighthead prop, as Simon Zebo gets the nod on the left wing.

Henshaw will wear the 12 shirt for Ireland.
Henshaw will wear the 12 shirt for Ireland.
Image: Inpho/Billy Stickland

IRELAND HEAD COACH Joe Schmidt has named Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne as his centre pairing for Saturday’s clash with South Africa in Dublin.

Speculation in recent months had revolved around which one of Henshaw and Payne would replace the retired Brian O’Driscoll in Ireland’s midfield, but Schmidt has opted to start both against the Boks.

The Connacht man will wear the 12 shirt, despite his lack of experience as an inside centre. Ulster’s Payne makes his international debut at outside centre, as Gordon D’Arcy misses out on making the match day squad.

Rob Kearney is fit to take his place at fullback, and is joined in the back three by Simon Zebo and Tommy Bowe, the latter set to make his first Ireland appearance since last year’s defeat to New Zealand.

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray make up a strong halfback pairing, while Jamie Heaslip, Chris Henry and Peter O’Mahony again form the back row that functioned superbly during the 2014 Six Nations.

Jared Payne Payne makes his Ireland debut at outside centre. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Captain Paul O’Connell and Devin Toner are the second row partnership, while Schmidt will have been relieved to name Mike Ross at tighthead prop given his struggles with a groin issue this week.

Sean Cronin starts at hooker in the absence of the injured Rory Best, while Jack McGrath gets the nod at loosehead.

Rodney Ah You makes the bench as cover for Ross at tighthead, with Richardt Strauss and Dave Kilcoyne providing the other front row options. Mike McCarthy is selected as the second row replacement ahead of Dave Foley, while Leinster’s Rhys Ruddock offers ball-carrying threat.

Eoin Reddan, Felix Jones and the versatile Ian Madigan are the backs replacements.

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Ireland team to face South Africa:

15. Rob Kearney
14. Tommy Bowe
13. Jared Payne
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Simon Zebo
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Conor Murray

1. Jack McGrath
2. Sean Cronin
3. Mike Ross
4. Devin Toner
5. Paul O’Connell (capt.)
6. Peter O’Mahony
7. Chris Henry
8. Jamie Heaslip


16. Richardt Strauss
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Rodney Ah You
19. Mike McCarthy
20. Rhys Ruddock
21. Eoin Reddan
22. Ian Madigan
23. Felix Jones

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Murray Kinsella

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