Jamie Heaslip to captain Ireland against South Africa

Jamie Heaslip
Jamie Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip has been named as captain for Ireland's opening autumn international against South Africa at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

The number eight assumes the role in the absence of Brian O'Driscoll, who is one of a number of key Irish players to miss the game because of injury.

Simon Zebo starts for the first time at full-back, with Keith Earls taking over from O'Driscoll at outside centre.

Leinster's Richardt Strauss makes his Ireland debut at hooker.

The South African-born front-rower is eligible to don the green shirt after being resident in Ireland for three years.

Strauss, 26, joined Leinster as a 23-year-old after playing for the Cheetahs against the 2009 British and Irish Lions.

He has since played a major role in the Dublin province's last two Heineken Cup victories in 2011 and 2012, and will face his cosuin Adriaan, who has been named as hooker in the Springbok line-up.

Heaslip saw off the challenge of Jonathan Sexton to wear the captain's armband, and with O'Driscoll's international future in some doubt beyond the end of this season, he has an opportunity to stake his claim for the role on a more permanent basis in the future.

Chris Henry
Chris Henry has been in impressive form for Ulster

"There were other guys holding their hands up for the job but the time is right for Jamie," said Irish coach Declan Kidney.

"Who should be the next captain has been on my mind for a while - we'd been working on a new leadership group over the past year to make sure that when the day did come, it would be more of a natural progression than a shock to the system," he added.

Munster utility back Zebo is selected ahead of Denis Hurley at full-back, with Bowe, who wins his 50th cap, and Trimble, giving a more experienced look to the back three.

Gordon D'Arcy joins Earls at centre, while Sexton and Conor Murray make up the half-back pairing.

Cian Healy has been passed fit to take his place in the front row after recovering from a shoulder problem and the selection of Mike Ross makes it an all-Leinster front row.

With Paul O'Connell ruled out with a recurrence of a back injury, Connacht lock Mike McCarthy joins Donnacha Ryan in the second row.

Peter O'Mahony is named at blindisde flanker and Chris Henry at openside.

Uncapped trio David Kilcoyne, Michael Bent and Iain Henderson are among the replacements, with Sean Cronin, Donncha O'Callaghan, Eoin Reddan, Ronan O'Gara and Fergus McFadden also on the bench.

Bent is part of the squad for the first time and is chosen in the 23 ahead of Ulster prop Tom Court.

O'Driscoll, O'Connell, Rob Kearney, Rory Best, Stephen Ferris and Sean O'Brien are all unavailable because of injuries.

Ireland: S Zebo; T Bowe, K Earls, G D'Arcy, A Trimble; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; D Ryan, M McCarthy; P O'Mahony, C Henry, J Heaslip (capt).

Replacements: D Kilcoyne, M Bent, S Cronin, D O'Callaghan, I Henderson, E Reddan, R O'Gara, F McFadden.

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