Keith Earls looks dejected after New Zealand run in another try. INPHO/Billy Stickland

Summer Tour Diary: Five month break for the Irish rugby team but who will be back?

Ireland will be boosted by the return of the likes of Tommy Bowe and Paul O’Connell but others look to have played their last Test match.

THE IRFU PROUDLY announced last week that thousands of tickets had been snapped up for the November Test match against South Africa.

After witnessing Ireland get well and truly skittled in Hamilton on Saturday, one wonders how many supporters are regretting their purchase.

No matter how good the Springboks prove to be in five months time, they will not reach the stupendous levels of performance that the All Blacks achieved in two out of three Steinlager Series matches.

The revamped Lansdowne Road is not a fortress yet but Ireland will surely be more consistently competitive for the November series of Tests.

The return of Stephen Ferris, Tommy Bowe and Paul O’Connell will see to that but what Irish players, involved in the New Zealand, tour may feature in the starting 15 to face the South Africans?


It takes a special type of effort to emerge from a 124-29 aggregate beating over three matches with credit.

However, Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien and Donnacha Ryan all performed admirably, but by no means perfectly, in each game.

Rob Kearney and Jonathan Sexton showed glimpses of their worth and Jamie Heaslip’s performance in the second Test was his finest outing for Ireland since the Wales match in February.

Conor Murray, as long as he practices his box kicks over the summer, will only benefit from a tour that featured his first international try.

Mike Ross will not be an international for many years more but he remains the best option at tighthead, while Rory Best should retain the number two jersey despite the challenges of Sean Cronin and the soon-to-be naturalised Richardt Strauss.

Rory Best prepares for a challenge from Aaron Cruden. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Using Best on the wings as an attacking option has been well worked out by opponents at this stage.

Gordon D’Arcy showed his defensive worth in his only outing and Brian O’Driscoll, uncharacteristically poor in Hamilton, will return for what will most likely be his final season in green – ending up, he hopes, with a Lions tour to Australia.

Bowe, Ferris and O’Connell will all feature if fit.


Eoin Reddan has earned the faith of his provincial coach, Joe Schmidt but may have to settle for a prolonged role as experienced back-up to Murray. Declan Kidney certainly seems to have an aversion to pairing Sexton and Reddan together from the start of matches.

Peter O’Mahony’s best contribution came off the bench in the Christchurch defeat. He should lose out to a fit again Heaslip in November.

Kevin McLaughlin was excellent in that same match but may have to content himself with a replacements spot. His lock experience is an added bonus.

Israel Dagg leaves Keith Earls in his wake. (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Keith Earls, as predicted on in May, has suffered for his flexibility. He bravely opted to remain on tour after copping a nasty shoulder injury but, after getting clattered en-route to a Hosea Gear try, he may regret his willingness.

Earls faces a battle with Andrew Trimble for the left wing slot as he will not be in the centre, barring injuries, for at least another year.

When will we see you again?

Fergus McFadden had two shocking outings in New Zealand but should be given a chance at inside centre sooner rather than later. He may have to bide his time for another opportunity.

Darren Cave must feel pretty low after being overlooked for a run-out at centre. Another gutsy season for Ulster may help but he appears to be down the pecking order. Ditto for Chris Henry, who finds himself far away from a position in the back-row.

Paddy Wallace should not feature for Ireland again soon but he must be given some credit for keeping up a personal training schedule and hauling himself down to New Zealand at short notice. Likewise Gavin Duffy, who never looked likely of making the matchdays 22s.

Dan Tuohy, like a lot of his teammates, was good in Christchurch and sub-standard otherwise. Declan Fitzpatrick has overtaken Tom Court as prop back-up, while Ronan Loughney can only improve from another tough Heineken Cup campaign.

Simon Zebo was dropped without a trace after the first Test, where he looked great in attack and poor in defence.

As for Ronan O’Gara – he may not want to go out on a four-match losing streak but his hand may be forced, especially with the emergence of Paddy Jackson. Donnacha O’Callaghan may not be far behind.

New faces?

Apart from a selection aberration before the first Test, Kidney will not make too many sweeping changes. The return of stalwarts such as O’Connell and Ferris should see to that.

Jackson and Strauss (mentioned already) are certainly in with a shout while Craig Gilroy must be given a chance on the wing in one of the three November matches.

Devin Toner, now that Brad Thorn is off to win more trophies abroad, needs a strong start for Leinster to stand a chance while James Downey could win a first cap if he batters his way to a few tries for Munster.

Dave Kearney may jump the queue, ahead of McFadden and Trimble, to take a spot on the replacement’s bench.

Good news though, and its snazzy microphone are heading back to Ireland and a summer of refreshing rain.

Opinion: Predictions and brave words fall by the wayside after merciless mauling

Six conclusions from Ireland’s long, black summer

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