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Ballsy from Schmidt, Roux's homecoming and more Ireland talking points

Ireland’s bench is an exciting one, while Iain Henderson has been switched to six.

JOE SCHMIDT HAS made five changes to his starting XV for Ireland’s second Test against the Springboks on Saturday in Johannesburg, with a further five changes on the bench.

Check out the matchday 23 in full here.

Roux’s homecoming

That Quinn Roux was named in Ireland’s 32-man squad to travel to South Africa in the first place was a surprise, meaning his inclusion in the starting team to face the Boks in Johannesburg comes as a genuine shock.

Jack McGrath with Quinn Roux Roux tackles Jack McGrath at Ireland training. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The 25-year-old started only nine games this season for Connacht and he was left out of their matchday squad altogether for the Guinness Pro12 final and semi-final, with Andrew Browne preferred as back-up to Aly Muldowney and Ultan Dillane.

Roux, however, is a lump of a physical specimen and possesses set-piece power that most locks in Ireland don’t come close to matching.

His selection, along with the introduction of Tadhg Furlong at tighthead prop in place of Mike Ross, very much indicates that Ireland are concerned about the scrummaging prowess of Boks loosehead Tendai Mtawarira.

‘The Beast’ got on top of Ross again last weekend and now Ireland have moved to shore up their tighthead side. Devin Toner packed down at tighthead lock last weekend but it’s not a natural position for him; now Roux will provide 125kg of grunt behind Furlong.

The fact that Roux makes his Ireland debut against his native land is fascinating, although he will hope for a happier return than CJ Stander had last weekend. Schmidt is the coach who first brought Roux to Ireland, signing him for Leinster in 2012, and clearly has great trust in the former Stormers lock.

One of the biggest units Ireland have had in the second row for some time, Roux will need to reward Schmidt’s faith with an outstanding set-piece display [scrum, lineout, maul and restarts], as well as a big shift around the park.

Ballsy from Schmidt

There are four other changes to Ireland’s XV for this second Test, with Rhys Ruddock, Craig Gilroy, Stuart Olding and Furlong also coming into the team.

Joe Schmidt Schmidt may have been tempted by minimal changes. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ruddock returns to the seven shirt for Ireland, having last worn it successfully in the 2014 November Test win over the Boks. That day saw the Leinster man leading the breakdown charge for Ireland, as well as contributing his usual muscular influence.

Olding, too, last played for Ireland in November of 2014, delivering a try-scoring performance against Georgia. Schmidt has always been a fan of the Ulster midfielder, who looks bulked up after his torrid injury travails in recent seasons and remains a classy footballer.

Gilroy has often seemed very much on the periphery of Schmidt’s attention but the prolific Ulster flyer benched last weekend after a season in which he was top try-scorer in the Pro12. Tasked with filling Keith Earls’ shoes, he must defend aggressively.

Aside from Furlong slotting in at tighthead for Ross, it’s hard to say that any of the players who have been replaced in the starting XV have been ‘dropped’.

Earls, Luke Marshall and Jordi Murphy all contributed superbly to last weekend’s historic win, but clearly Schmidt feels fresh legs are needed for the second Test at altitude.

Nonetheless, it’s ballsy from the Kiwi to make so many changes to a winning formula. Oftentimes, Schmidt gets rewarded for those big calls.

Exciting bench

The introduction of Dave Kilcoyne, Richardt Strauss, Sean Reidy, Donnacha Ryan and Tiernan O’Halloran to the Ireland bench means a further five changes to the matchday 23. Those alterations are likely to excite Ireland fans.

Tiernan O'Halloran during training O'Halloran is set for his debut. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Ultan Dillane is certainly very unlucky to miss out but Munster man Ryan can be relied on to hammer into the challenge of replacing Roux in the second half and bringing aggression and lineout nous to the mix.

Reidy and O’Halloran are set for their Ireland debuts after strong seasons for Ulster and Connacht, respectively, with the fullback having been particularly impressive under Pat Lam.

Kilcoyne adds another big ball carrier as back-up to Jack McGrath, who might be hard pressed to go the full 80 again this weekend. Strauss, meanwhile, is Schmidt’s replacement hooker choice when looking for set-piece solidity and a breakdown threat late in the game.

As with the first XV, there is a hint of the daring in Schmidt’s bench selection but there is also the promise of impact and energy in the second half.

Key pillars

While there is a fresh feel to this Ireland XV, Schmidt has kept several important pillars of his side in place to lend experience and composure.

Conor Murray celebrates after the match Ireland have an experience core. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

McGrath at loosehead is already an elder statesman at the age of 26, while Toner’s leadership and intelligence were once again underlined in a man-of-the-match performance last weekend.

Jamie Heaslip at number eight is as reliable as Test players come and was notably communicative and calming when Ireland were numbers-down in the first Test.

At scrum-half, Conor Murray’s assuring presence was hugely important in the second half, as was his huge work rate in defence. Outside him, out-half Paddy Jackson looked like a man who believes he is ready to become part of this side’s spine.

In midfield, Robbie Henshaw may still only be 23 but he has been in this environment for some years and has now taken on an ever-growing responsibility as the defensive chief in the 13 shirt.

Jared Payne at fullback was all class and accuracy in Cape Town, with his calming nature in the backfield allowing those in front of him to operate with confidence. That influence will be vital again at altitude in Johannesburg.

Henderson to six

CJ Stander’s suspension means that Iain Henderson drops to the back row after an outstanding display at lock last weekend.

Iain Henderson is tackled by Siya Kolisi Henderson will be a primary ball carrier for Ireland. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Ulsterman last started for Ireland in the six shirt in the 2014 Six Nations clash with Italy but eight of his nine provincial starts this season have come at blindside flanker. He will embrace the move.

With the 14-man defensive performance against the Boks in the first Test having shown off Henderson’s skills without the ball – big hits, strips of ball carriers, turnovers on the ground – he may well be more prominent in attack this weekend.

He made important carries for Ireland last time around – his surge preceded the Payne try from Marshall’s grubber – but they generally came in heavily-congested areas.

Freed up of the workhorse locking duties of slamming rucks and carrying short off the ruck, we may now see a more rampant attacking version of Henderson on Saturday.

- This article was updated at 2.15pm to correct Robbie Henshaw’s age. Belated happy birthday to the Ireland centre.

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Roux set for Ireland debut as Schmidt makes five changes for second Test

Springboks make two changes for second Test against Schmidt’s Ireland

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Murray Kinsella

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