Ronan O'Gara out as Jonathan Sexton faces South Africa
AUTUMN INTERNATIONAL: IRELAND v SOUTH AFRICA Venue: Croke Park, Dublin Date: Saturday, 28 November Kick-off: 1430 GMT Coverage: Live coverage on BBC2, BBC Radio Ulster MW and the BBC Sport website
Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton is tipped to grab his big chance at Croke Park
Jonathan Sexton has usurped Ronan O'Gara for the Ireland number 10 jersey ahead of Saturday's eagerly-awaited clash with South Africa at Croke Park.
Coach Declan Kidney has gone for the young Leinster fly-half after his five-star showing last week against Fiji.
There are six changes from that game with Cian Healy, David Wallace, Donncha O'Callaghan, Tommy Bowe, Paddy Wallace, and Tomas O'Leary all returning.
Sean O'Brien comes in on the bench for Denis Leamy who failed a fitness test.
Leamy was included in the replacements even though he was a major doubt after being stretchered off with an ankle injury against Fiji last week.
Also on the bench is Munster's Tony Buckley, who gets in ahead of Ulster's Tom Court.
Peter Stringer gets the replacement scrum-half role instead of Eoin Reddan, and sits beside his long-time partner O'Gara.
Not since the retirement of Ulster's David Humphreys five years ago has O'Gara found himself under any pressure, and dropped.
While Sexton's inclusion will be called a shock, it was not totally unexpected that he got the call.
Since Humphreys's retirement, Ireland have had trouble finding cover for O'Gara, although Ulster's Paddy Wallace has proved a very able deputy when the need arose.
Sexton, though, showed no nerves during his international debut last week and produced a mature performance, including a 100% kicking record.
Jonathan Sexton made a superb debut for Ireland against Fiji
Under the tutelage last season of Argentina great Felipe Contepomi, Sexton has become an astute on-field tactician with the added confidence to try something different and exciting.
Facing the Springboks will be the biggest test to date for the 24-year-old and one that will show whether he really is the real deal.
Kidney admitted that he needed to see Sexton really tested against top-class opposition.
"I know we have a world-class outside half in Ronan but we have to find out things about ourselves," said the Irish coach.
"Jonathan had a good game last week but with respect, Fiji were short of a few so it was difficult to read. I need to find out more.
"I worked with Jonathan last year and gave him the nod for the 'A' team and that answered a lot of questions.
"Ronan is disappointed but is the perfect pro. He's taken it on the chin, has continued training and has contributed to the team exactly as he would normally."
Kidney, meanwhile, has not tampered too much elsewhere.
He goes with Wallace as skipper Brian O'Driscoll's midfield partner after the Ulsterman had a fine game against the Wallabies two weeks ago.
As expected Cian Healy returns to the front row at Court's expense with Leo Cullen also giving way for the return of O'Callaghan.
Ireland: R Kearney; T Bowe, B O'Driscoll, P Wallace, K Earls; J Sexton, T O'Leary; C Healy, J Flannery, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell; S Ferris, D Wallace, J Heaslip. Replacements: S Cronin, T Buckley, L Cullen, D Leamy, P Stringer, R O'Gara, G D'Arcy.
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