Veteran back Keith Earls will captain Ireland for the first time after Andy Farrell unveiled a second-string side on Monday for their second midweek match against the Maori All Blacks.
Farrell has made three personnel changes to his starting team for Tuesday’s fixture in Wellington to that which opened the tour with a 32-17 defeat by the Maori in Hamilton on 29 June.
The changes have all been forced by injury as the Irish enter the final week of a gruelling tour, with Farrell eager to preserve his top players for series-deciding third and final Test against New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday.
Michael Lowry will make his first start of the tour at fullback, Jimmy O’Brien switches to the left wing, which pushes Earls to outside centre in place of James Hume, who suffered a tour-ending groin injury in the first Maori match.
Stuart McCloskey, who was called on to the tour as injury cover, replaces Bundee Aki at inside centre.
Farrell said he had no hesitation handing the captaincy to Earls, who has never led his country in a 14-year, 97-Test-cap career.
“His standing and his status in the group are of the highest order, so that was an easy one,” Farrell said.
“It gave me a lot of pleasure asking him to do it. There’s no more deserving man to captain Ireland, he’s always been a leader, especially over the last five or six years that I’ve known him.”
New Zealand-born Aki was captain in Hamilton but he has been omitted pending probable selection for the third Test, following the head injury suffered by Garry Ringrose during the second Test win in Dunedin on Saturday.
Another late call-up, Niall Scannell, replaces injured hooker Dave Heffernan in the only change to the midweek forward pack.
Prop Jeremy Loughman has completed the 12-day return-to-play protocols and will start, having been concussed against the Maori in Hamilton two weeks ago.
Lock Kieran Treadwell is the only starting player who was involved in the Dunedin Test, having come off the bench late in the 23-12 triumph.
“These guys have had to wait for another chance and they’re busting for that,” said Farrell.
“The Maori beat us on the night and thoroughly deserved that, so it’s a chance to show how much they’ve improved.
“They’ve had time to learn all those lessons – be more disciplined, be more accurate and understand what it takes to win a big game.”
Ireland – 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Keith Earls (c), 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jimmy O’Brien, 10 Ciaran Frawley, 9 Craig Casey; 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Subs: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ryan Baird, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Mack Hansen.
© Agence France-Presse