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Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Billy Stickland/INPHO Robbie Henshaw at Ireland training earlier this week.
# Concern
McCloskey standing by with Henshaw emerging as a doubt for Ireland
The Ulster man could get a chance as Ireland worry over an injury issue for Henshaw.

ROBBIE HENSHAW HAS emerged as an injury doubt for Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series clash with South Africa tomorrow, meaning that Stuart McCloskey is standing by to replace him.

Henshaw was named at inside centre in the Ireland team yesterday but it’s understood that he has picked up an injury issue and will need to complete fitness tests today.

Ireland boss Andy Farrell will obviously hope to have one of his key men prove his availability but Ulster man McCloskey is in line for promotion from the bench if Henshaw doesn’t pull through.

30-year-old McCloskey has been in superb form for his province and would relish a chance in the starting XV to add to his six caps, the last of which came in the summer of 2021. The Ulster talisman has had to be very patient in the Irish set-up given the quality and consistency of Henshaw and Bundee Aki in Ireland’s number 12 jersey. 

Aki is currently serving a ban but has been training with Ireland this week ahead of his return to availability for their final autumn Test against Australia on 19 November.

Yesterday afternoon, Farrell confirmed that Henshaw would partner Leinster team-mate Garry Ringrose in midfield, with McCloskey on the bench, for this weekend’s clash with the Springboks.

However, it appears that concerns over Henshaw’s fitness have emerged since and there is doubt whether the Lions-capped centre will be able to play. Ireland are due to have their captain’s run this morning at the Aviva Stadium, with a media briefing taking place at midday.

Losing Henshaw would undoubtedly be a blow for Ireland, who are already without first-choice left James Lowe as well as second row Iain Henderson and hooker Rónan Kelleher, who would have been involved in the matchday 23.

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Henshaw’s understanding with out-half Johnny Sexton and outside centre Garry Ringrose would have been useful for Ireland against the Boks, but McCloskey getting a shot against one of the best teams in the world would undoubtedly be exciting and help Farrell to further assess the depth of his squad.

If Henshaw doesn’t pull through today’s captain’s run, that would presumably also result in disruption to the Ireland A team, who are playing the All Blacks XV this evening.

Ireland A backs Mike Lowry, James Hume, Jimmy O’Brien, and Jacob Stockdale could all be in the frame to come into the number 23 shirt for the senior side against South Africa.

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