Henshaw and Payne both to start

Published: Thursday 6th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Ireland must wait a little longer to discover the great successor to Brian O’Driscoll as the two main contenders will pair up in the centres to face South Africa.

The now-retired O’Driscoll has anointed Connacht centre Robbie Henshaw to assume his outside centre mantle – but the 21-year-old will start Saturday’s opening autumn Test at 12.

The Athlone-born battering ram has replaced Gordon D’Arcy, still green after picking up a heavy knock in Castres at the end of last month.

That has paved the way for Ulster’s Jared Payne to slot in for his Test debut at outside centre, with Rob Kearney fit to start at full-back.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt is well known for keeping his cards close to his chest, and by pairing his two rivals for the famous 13 shirt in midfield he has not strayed from type one jot.

From a centre pairing boasting 212 Ireland caps that closed last term’s Six Nations, Schmidt’s midfield duo will line up against the Springboks with a combined Test total of three appearances.

Henshaw’s fourth international appearance is certainly a leap into the deep end, squaring up to the 102-cap South Africa captain Jean de Villiers.

Tommy Bowe claims his wing berth after successfully negotiating return to play protocols after concussion.

Tighthead prop Mike Ross has won his fortnight-long fitness battle to ease Ireland’s front-row injury glut, with Leinster team-mate Sean Cronin slotting in for the sidelined Rory Best.

Boss Schmidt must do without props Cian Healy, Marty Moore and Nathan White, so Rodney Ah You covers tighthead from the bench.

Richardt Strauss takes a seat on the bench and is in line for his first cap since June 2013, and his second against the country of his birth.

The 28-year-old has battled back from heart surgery and then tearing his hamstring off the bone to return to the Test arena.

Barring long-term absentee Sean O’Brien Ireland have the luxury of selecting from strength in the back-five of the pack, with Paul O’Connell again captain and Chris Henry continuing at openside.

Published: Thursday 6th November 2014 by The News Editor

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