Six Ulster Rugby players named in Ireland squad to travel for South Africa tour

Cormac Izuchukwu could make his Ireland debut in the two-match test series against the world champion Springboks

Ireland beat South Africa during the pool stage of last year’s Rugby World Cup
Ireland beat South Africa during the pool stage of last year’s Rugby World Cup and will look for a similar result against the Springboks next month

SIX Ulstermen will make the trip to South Africa as Ireland prepare to take on the back-to-back world champion Springboks in a two-match test series.

Cormac Izuchukwu could make his first appearance for Andy Farrell’s side, having displayed impressive form for the province in the last few games of the season.

Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole Nick Timoney, Stuart McCloskey and Jacob Stockdale also make the plane to Johannesburg.

Ireland go into this series having won the last three meetings between the nations, including a 13-8 success during the pool stage at last year’s World Cup in France.

The major absentee from the northern province is Iain Henderson, who was ruled out last month after undergoing toe surgery.

Jamison Gibson-Park will miss Ireland’s tour of New Zealand
Jamison Gibson-Park will miss Ireland’s tour of South Africa with a hamstring injury (Brian Lawless/PA)

Other major names missing out are arguably Ireland’s standout player in the Six Nations, Jamison Gibsin-Park, who misses out with a hamstring injury, and Jack Conan, who is ruled out for personal reasons.

Conan’s wife, Ali, is due to give birth and the Leinster forward ruled himself out for travel.

Connacht scrum-half Caolin Blade, who has two international caps, benefits from the absence of the influential Gibson-Park.

Full-back Hugo Keenan missed Ireland’s 31-7 win over Wales
Full-back Hugo Keenan will miss the South Africa tour due to his call-up to Ireland's 7s squad for the Olympics this summer in Paris (Brian Lawless/PA)

With full-back Hugo Keenan absent for the tour due to his participation in his country’s rugby sevens squad at the Paris Olympics, Jimmy O’Brien makes a timely return from injury having sat out as Ireland retained the Guinness Six Nations earlier this year.

Ulster’s Tom Stewart also failed to make the 35-man squad for the series against South Africa, despite finishing inside the top 10 try scorers in this year’s United Rugby Championship.

Peter O’Mahony remains as captain of Andy Farrell’s side despite rumours of the Six Nations being his swansong in an Ireland jersey.

O’Mahony added: “I am proud to be asked to lead Ireland in South Africa, a country which provides one of the toughest challenges in world rugby.

“As reigning world champions, South Africa will provide the sternest of tests and we know that we will have to perform at a high level to get the results we want.

Finlay Bealham (left) celebrated Ireland’s win over South Africa with Peter O’Mahony (Bradley Collyer/PA)
Peter O'Mahony knows what it means to beat the Springboks after that famous win in Paris last year. (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“There’s a lot of respect and familiarity between both countries in recent years at international and club levels...we know the challenge that awaits.”

Three players could make their test debut for the boys in green in South Africa; Leinster’s Jamie Osborne and Sam Prendergast and Ulster’s Cormac Izuchukwu.

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is now targeting wins against South Africa
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell is now targeting wins against South Africa (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Head coach Andy Farrell said: “Travelling to South Africa to play a Test Series against the defending world champions provides no greater test for us.

“It is another valuable opportunity for us to further grow and develop from the Guinness Six Nations.”

Farrell’s side will go head-to-head with the Springboks in the opening Test at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday, July 6.

The second test will be played at Hollywoodbets Kings Park in Durban a week later on Saturday, July 13.

Ireland squad for the tour of South Africa:

Backs: B Aki (Connacht), C Blade (Connacht), C Casey (Munster), J Crowley (Munster), C Frawley (Leinster), R Henshaw (Leinster), J Larmour (Leinster), J Lowe (Leinster), S McCloskey (Ulster), C Murray (Munster), C Nash (Munster), J O’Brien (Leinster), J Osborne (Leinster), S Prendergast (Leinster), G Ringrose (Leinster), J Stockdale (Ulster).

Forwards: R Baird (Leinster), F Bealham (Connacht), T Beirne (Munster), C Doris (Leinster), T Furlong (Leinster), C Healy (Leinster), R Herring (Ulster), C Izuchukwu (Ulster), O Jager (Munster), R Kelleher (Leinster), J McCarthy (Leinster), P O’Mahony (Munster, capt), T O’Toole (Ulster), A Porter (Leinster), C Prendergast (Connacht), J Ryan (Leinster), D Sheehan (Leinster), N Timoney (Ulster), J van der Flier (Leinster).