Jared Payne set to revert to centre for South Africa Test after injured Robbie Henshaw returns home
Ireland confirmed yesterday that Robbie Henshaw will play no part in Saturday’s decisive third Test against the Springboks.
The soon to be Leinster centre was hauled from the fray in Ellis Park last weekend just as momentum swung decisively in South Africa’s favour thanks to a knee injury and he has returned to Ireland to see a specialist.
The Athlone man will not be replaced in Joe Schmidt’s touring party.
Usual outside centre Jared Payne has been switched to fullback for the past two games to positive effect but could now revert to midfield where he won his first 14 international caps.
While Rob Kearney is absent, Connacht’s Tiernan O’Halloran earned his first cap in Johannesburg and could replace Payne at 15.
Luke Marshall, who was so composed in his return to international rugby two weekends ago, is another candidate to fill the 13 jersey, just as he did for Ulster throughout the season, while Keith Earls has also been deployed in Brian O’Driscoll’s old spot over the last year.
Henshaw’s misfortune increases the chances of Stuart Olding retaining his place for the clash in Port Elizabeth.
Thanks to the second serious knee injury of his young career, the Ulsterman was winning his first cap since November 2014 last weekend.
Having had the occasion end in such crushing disappointment, Olding is determined that Ireland will rally and finish what has already been an historic tour on a high note.
“Nothing’s changed, the only thing that’s different is we’re going for the series next week rather than this week,” he said after South Africa’s devastating 16-point comeback.
“Everyone realises that, everyone’s disappointed and a bit down but we’ll lick our wounds, travel to Port Elizabeth, and train well.
“We’re hugely disappointed with how we played in the last 20, but we’ll take positives from the first 60 minutes and go into next week all guns blazing.”
While admitting that the challenge was the most testing of his career, the former Belfast Royal Academy student believes he will be better for the experience.
“I slipped off a few tackles which I’m pretty disappointed in,” said Olding. It was the toughest game I’ve played in but we’ve got to learn from it and hopefully we become better players for it.”