All of the focus may be on the Six Nations and World Cup next year but Ireland are also looking beyond that, with a three-match summer tour to South Africa confirmed for 2016.
The host cities for the three Tests will not be known until next summer as Joe Schmidt takes Ireland to South Africa for the first time since 2004.
The tour will be Ireland’s fifth to South Africa, aside from the 1995 World Cup, but it will be the first time they have played three Tests against the Springboks.
Ireland, who beat the Springboks for the fifth time when they triumphed 29-15 at the Aviva Stadium earlier this month, have never defeated them in South Africa in seven attempts.
Ireland went down 24-8 in Cape Town in 1961 in their first visit and the other tours were all two-match Tests in 1981, ’98 and 2004, all of which ended in losses.
The closest Ireland have come to victory in South Africa was a 12-10 defeat in Durban during the controversial 1981 tour, which also included a 25-15 loss in Cape Town.
A spokesperson for the Springboks said yesterday that while the three Tests have been confirmed, the venues will not be decided until probably the middle of next year.
Meanwhile, former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick said Ireland are now reaping the benefits of having their players centrally contracted.
Ireland’s rise to third in the rankings is in contrast to the slump being endured by England, who fell to their fifth defeat in a row when they went down 31-28 to South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.
All five defeats have been to the Springboks and the All Blacks and Fitzpatrick, speaking at the IRB World Cup Conference in London, said that such results are going to continue because of burnout issues in England and France as players try to serve two masters between clubs which are privately owned and international duty.
“Take England for example, does the RFU step in and buy the clubs? Maybe that’s a way but it’s food for thought,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said that countries with centrally contracted players, including his native New Zealand, are going to benefit and he said that Ireland are in a position to reap rewards from being in charge of their players.
“It means Joe Schmidt has control of the players at all times and if a player is not quite right, then he doesn’t play. It just means players get looked after. It is the best system. The New Zealand players are having the times of their lives because they are looked after very well and play as much rugby as they need to,” added Fitzpatrick.
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