Ireland rugby coach Andy Farrell
Dublin (AFP) - Ireland coach Andy Farrell said Tuesday he had yet to rule out any of his squad’s injured players from next week’s November opener against world champions South Africa.
Recently installed as the number one men’s team in international rugby union, Ireland begin their end-of-year campaign against South Africa in Dublin on November 5, with Fiji and Australia also visiting Lansdowne Road next month.
The South Africa match will be Ireland’s first Test since they completed a stunning 2-1 series win away to New Zealand in July.
Farrell, however, faces several tricky decisions over whether to pitch players who are at varying stages of recovery into an encounter with a South Africa team renowned for their all-round physicality.
Full-back Hugo Keenan, scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park and prop Tadhg Furlong are among those trying to overcome injuries, although Keenan and Gibson-Park will be reintegrated to training this week.
Ulster’s national squad contingent of Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Rob Herring, Michael Lowry, Stuart McCloskey, Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney and Kieran Treadwell returned from South Africa on Monday.
The Irish Rugby Football Union said “they will be managed over the coming days” following recent illness issues experienced by the provincial squad during Ulster’s recent trip to South Africa for United Rugby Championship games.
“Some players don’t need that much game time. Some players are able to just hit it straight from the word go, some players need five or six games to hit the ground running,” Farrell told reporters.
“It’s up to us to assess that. We are not a massive playing group as well, so needs must at times.
“Certainly, nobody is ruled out at this stage.”
Ireland have won six of their last 10 Tests against the Springboks but Farrell is taking nothing for granted ahead of next week’s encounter, which has added significance given the two teams are in the same pool at next year’s World Cup in France.
“They have got a unique way of playing and they are all on the same page – that’s their strength, isn’t it?” he said.
“They know their point of difference and go after it hard and have been very successful in doing that.”
The former England dual-code international added: “To get back up to speed for that first game and be at our best is where we want to be, and I think we all know it is where we have to be coming up against a good team like South Africa.”