Autumn internationals: Bundee Aki is set to make debut for Ireland against South Africa

New Zealand-born Bundee Aki qualifies to play for Ireland under residency laws
New Zealand-born Bundee Aki qualifies to play for Ireland under residency laws
Autumn Internationals: Ireland v South Africa
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Date: Saturday, 11 November Kick-off: 17:30 GMT
Coverage: Live commentary on Radio Ulster; Live text commentary and report on the BBC Sport website

Bundee Aki is in line to make his Ireland debut against South Africa but Tommy O'Donnell is struggling for Saturday's game in Dublin with a shoulder injury.

Connacht centre Aki, who was born in New Zealand to Samoan parents, has recently qualified to play for Ireland.

Munster flanker O'Donnell picked up a shoulder injury on Monday and has been sent for a scan to assess the damage.

Fellow back-rowers Jack Conan and Dan Leavy, who sat out Tuesday's training.

Aki qualifies for Ireland through residency rules but his inclusion in the squad has been a topic of debate since Simon Zebo was overlooked for November's games against the Springboks, Fiji and Argentina.

Several columnists have again hit out at World Rugby's residency qualification rules.

Easterby not fazed by controversy

However, Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby says Aki will not be fazed by the controversy that his selection has sparked and he has backed the centre to renew his partnership with former Connacht team-mate Robbie Henshaw.

"The rules are the rules and Bundee has invested time into moving to Connacht and has played exceptionally well while playing here," said Easterby.

"There is always the question over eligibility of players, whether it's residency, grand-parentage, parentage if players aren't born in the country.

"Bundee and other players will be potentially singled out but he's certainly fitted in well and has trained well. We're really happy with what he's already shown in terms of his training.

"I'd say he wouldn't be listening to, or privy to that criticism. He's a confident character, he's confident in his ability.

"He wouldn't have put himself in this position had he not had the confidence in himself and in the group that they back him in that decision. He's not the first and he won't be the last player to do it."

Henshaw switch

Following injuries to Garry Ringrose and Jared Payne, Henshaw is expected to move to outside centre, which will allow Aki to start in his preferred inside centre role.

Easterby has admitted that Ireland will be looking at new player pairings across the autumn matches.

"It's a chance to see some combinations; we haven't been together as a group in terms of the Lions players and a few others through injury," Easterby added.

"This series is a chance to look at some of those combinations, and 12 and 13 being one of them with Jared and Garry being out injured."

Ireland squad for autumn internationals
Backs: B Aki, A Byrne, J Carbery, A Conway, K Earls, C Farrell, R Henshaw, D Kearney, R Kearney, I Keatley, K Marmion, S McCloskey, L McGrath, C Murray, J Sexton, J Stockdale, D Sweetman.
Forwards: R Best, J Conan, U Dillane, T Furlong, C Healy, I Henderson, R Herring, D Kilcoyne, D Leavy, J McGrath, S O'Brien, T O'Donnell, P O'Mahony, A Porter, R Ruddock, James Ryan, John Ryan, CJ Stander, D Toner, J Tracy, K Treadwell.