Bundee Aki to make Ireland debut against South Africa
Last Updated: 10/11/17 2:10pm
Bundee Aki will make his Ireland debut against South Africa but Keith Earls and Jack McGrath have both been ruled out due to injury.
Aki has been thrust into immediate Test action after completing his three-year residency qualification, forging a potent centre pairing with former Connacht team-mate Robbie Henshaw.
Earls misses out due to a suspected hamstring problem so Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale start on the wings, with Rob Kearney named at full-back despite making just three appearances for Leinster this season.
Head coach Joe Schmidt admitted Earls could miss the entire three-match autumn series.
"Keith picked up the injury on Tuesday, and it was a surprise to him and us," said Schmidt.
"It's a hamstring injury, and I think it's going to make it certainly a struggle for next week, and potentially the week after.
"So he will be a doubt for the series at this point.
"We're disappointed and so is he; he was sensational for us in Japan in the summer."
Prop McGrath is also sidelined after picking up a knock in training so Cian Healy starts at loosehead and Dave Kilcoyne provides cover.
Sean O'Brien will win his 50th cap and is named alongside South African-born CJ Stander and Peter O'Mahony in the back row.
Uncapped Munster back Darren Sweetnam is named on the bench alongside Joey Carbery.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Cian Healy, 2 Rory Best (c), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Iain Henderson, 5 Devin Toner, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Sean O'Brien, 8 CJ Stander.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 James Ryan, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Darren Sweetnam.