Jared Payne among five uncapped players in Ireland squad
Ulster's former New Zealand U21 utility-back could make his Ireland debut next month
Ulster utility-back Jared Payne has been named in Joe Schmidt’s 37-man Ireland squad to face South Africa, Georgia and Australia next month.
The Ireland head coach has been hit by a lengthy injury list that includes Ulster trio Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall and Iain Henderson as well as Leinster quintet Cian Healy, Sean O’Brien, Dave Kearney, Fergus McFadden and Luke Fitzgerald.
Munster enforcer Paul O’Connell continues as captain and is joined among the 21 forwards by provincial team-mate Dave Foley, Connacht’s Nathan White and Leinster’s Dominic Ryan.
In the backs, Connacht’s 21-year-old wing/full-back Darragh Leader and 29-year-old New Zealand-born Payne back could also make their Ireland debuts at the Aviva Stadium.
Ulster outside-half Paddy Jackson misses out on selection, as does team-mate Darren Cave as Schmidt opts for Leinster’s Ian Madigan and Munster’s Ian Keatley to rival Johnny Sexton for the starting outside-half berth.
In midfield, there is plenty of competition for places with veteran centre Gordon D’Arcy joined by Connacht’s Robbie Henshaw, and Ulster duo Stuart Olding and Payne, with Madigan also an option at inside centre.
Ireland begin their campaign on Saturday 8 November with a tough test against Heyneke Meyer’s South Africa, who finished second in this year’s Rugby Championship, but defeated the All Blacks at Ellis Park in the final round of the tournament.
On Sunday 16 November, Ireland host Georgia before doing battle with Australia, who will have a new head coach following the resignation of Ewen McKenzie before their 29-28 defeat to the All Blacks last Saturday.
Ireland Squad for the 2014 Guinness Series (37):
Forwards: Stephen Archer (Cork Constitution/Munster), Rodney Ah You (Corinthians/Connacht), Rory Best (Banbridge/Ulster), James Cronin (Dolphin/Munster), Sean Cronin (St Mary’s College/Leinster), Robbie Diack (Malone/Ulster), Dave Foley (UL Bohemians/Munster, uncapped), Chris Henry (Malone/Ulster), Jamie Heaslip (Naas/Leinster), Dave Kilcoyne (UL Bohemians/Munster), Mike McCarthy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Jack McGrath (St Mary’s College/Leinster), Paul O’Connell (Young Munster/Munster, captain), Tommy O’Donnell (UL Bohemians/Munster), Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster), Mike Ross (Clontarf/Leinster), Rhys Ruddock (St Mary’s College/Leinster), Dominic Ryan (Lansdowne/Leinster, uncapped), Richardt Strauss (Old Wesley/Leinster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Nathan White (Galwegians/Connacht, uncapped).
Backs: Tommy Bowe (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Gordon D’Arcy (Lansdowne/Leinster), Craig Gilroy (Dungannon/Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Connacht), Felix Jones (Shannon/Munster), Rob Kearney (UCD/Leinster), Ian Keatley (Young Munster/Munster), Darragh Leader (Galwegians/Connacht, uncapped), Ian Madigan (Blackrock/Leinster), Kieran Marmion (Galwegians/Connacht), Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster), Stuart Olding (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), Jared Payne (Ulster, uncapped), Eoin Reddan (Lansdowne/Leinster), Johnny Sexton (Racing Metro), Simon Zebo (Cork Constitution/Munster).
Players unavailable for selection due to injury include: Keith Earls, Luke Fitzgerald (returning from long term injury), Cian Healy, Iain Henderson, Dave Kearney, Luke Marshall, Fergus McFadden, Martin Moore, Jordi Murphy, Sean O’Brien, Donnacha Ryan, Mike Sherry, Dan Touhy, Andrew Trimble and Damien Varley.
Opposition (all matches at the Aviva Stadium):
Saturday 8 November vs South Africa, 17:30 kick-off
Sunday 16 November vs Georgia, 14:30 kick-off
Saturday 22 November vs Australia, 16:30 kick-off