Ireland bring in Gibson-Park for Pool B showdown with South Africa

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2023 - Pool B - Ireland v Romania - Matmut Atlantique, Bordeaux, France - September 9, 2023 Ireland's Jamison Gibson-Park scores their first try REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) – Ireland named scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park in their only change for the crunch Rugby World Cup Pool B clash with South Africa in Paris on Saturday as coach Andy Farrell selected an unchanged pack with a 5-3 split between forwards and backs on the bench.

The fixture is expected to decide who finishes top of the group and is also a meeting between the two top ranked teams in the world, with Ireland looking to hold onto their place at the summit, earned on the back of a superb run of 15 wins in a row.

“It is not a must-win, it is not a do-or-die game but it is pretty important to both teams, let’s put it that way,” Ireland coach Andy Farrell told reporters.

“It’s always nice to win but we have always looked at ourselves mainly in terms of performance.”

Johnny Sexton will lead the team from flyhalf alongside Gibson-Park, who is the only change from the team that defeated Tonga 59-16 in their previous game.

Conor Murray drops to the bench as one of three backline options among the replacements along with flyhalf Jack Crowley and centre Robbie Henshaw.

South Africa’s decision to choose seven forwards on the bench was never likely to change Ireland’s plans but could be a factor in the final 20 minutes if they hold the physical edge and are able to produce greater speed at the breakdown.

“I think it’s great,” Farrell told reporters. “They know what fits for them and so do we. I did pose the question to our forwards coaches as to whether we should go with seven backs and one forward, but they weren’t up for that!

“I am pretty confident in the five forwards we have got coming off the bench and the impact they’re going to have and the type of game we’re going to play when that happens.”

Hooker Dan Sheehen has recovered from injury to be named among the replacements for what will be his World Cup debut.

“Dan is obviously fit and raring to go and in fine condition. He’s a world-class hooker in my opinion and he gets his chance to get his tournament under way,” Farrell said.

Ireland beat South Africa 19-16 when the teams last met in Dublin in November and have won seven of the last 11 against the Springboks. Surprisingly this is their first World Cup meeting.

Team: 15-Hugo Keenan, 14-Mack Hansen, 13-Garry Ringrose, 12-Bundee Aki, 11-James Lowe, 10-Johnny Sexton, 9-Jamison Gibson-Park, 1-Andrew Porter, 2-Ronan Kelleher, 3-Tadhg Furlong, 4-Tadhg Beirne, 5-James Ryan, 6-Peter O’Mahony, 7-Josh van der Flier, 8-Caelan Doris

Replacements: 16-Dan Sheehan, 17-David Kilcoyne, 18-Finlay Bealham, 19-Iain Henderson, 20-Ryan Baird, 21-Conor Murray, 22-Jack Crowley, 23-Robbie Henshaw

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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