Ireland to debut Aki in midfield against Springboks

DUBLIN (AP) Bundee Aki will make his Ireland debut against South Africa at Lansdowne Road on Saturday, reprising a potent center partnership with Connacht teammate Robbie Henshaw.

Aki, New Zealand-born and of Samoan descent, has been thrust into immediate test action after completing his three-year residency qualification. Injuries to Garry Ringrose and Jared Payne opened the door for Aki.

He and Henshaw excelled in tandem when Connacht won the Pro12 in 2016.

Keith Earls hurt his hamstring on Tuesday, and may yet be ruled out of Ireland’s three tests this month. Munster teammate Andrew Conway has replaced him on the right wing, with Jacob Stockdale on the left wing for his third cap.

Reserve back Darren Sweetnam could make his test debut.

Cian Healy is also starting at loosehead prop after Jack McGrath picked up a knock in training.

Ireland: Rob Kearney, Andrew Conway, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Devin Toner, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Furlong, Rory Best (captain), Cian Healy. Reserves: Rob Herring, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock, Kieran Marmion, Joey Carbery, Darren Sweetnam.

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