Gordon D'Arcy, the experienced centre, insists there is greater depth to Irish rugby, from provincial to national level, than ever before.
D'Arcy has been recalled for Ireland's game today against Fiji at the Royal Dublin Society after losing out to Paddy Wallace for the autumn opener against Australia. D'Arcy, 29, who has suffered more than most through injury, finished the Grand Slam as first-choice centre and knows how quickly things can change.
"This is probably the most competitive season, from Leinster right through to Ireland," he said. "The so-called younger guys now have 15 to 20 caps, so they're not exactly novices. Not getting selected is always tough but I always find that spurs you on. I tend not to read too much into things. In my career, I've seen that three months can be a long time in rugby." D'Arcy is one of eight changes to the team that drew 20-20 with Australia and features in a Leinster-dominated backline, with only the Munster wing Keith Earls breaking the monopoly.
The South Africa coach Peter de Villiers has made four changes from the team beaten by France last weekend for today's game with Italy in Udine.
The loosehead prop Wian du Preez will earn his first cap while Adriaan Strauss replaces the injured Bismarck du Plessis. Schalk Burger is also out so Danie Rossouw starts on the flank, with Andries Bekker at lock. The prop Tendai Mtawarira and lock Victor Matfield will be used from the bench while Jean Deysel and Francois Hougaard are in line for first caps.
Ireland: R Kearney (Leinster); S Horgan (Leinster), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), G D'Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster); J Sexton (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster); T Court (Ulster), J Flannery (Munster), J Hayes (Munster), L Cullen (Leinster), P O'Connell (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Leamy (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster). Replacements: S Cronin (Connacht), T Buckley (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster) S O'Brien (Leinster), T O'Leary (Munster), P Wallace (Ulster) A Trimble (Ulster).
Fiji: N Ligairi (Brive); V Goneva (Vaturu), G Lovobalavu (Toulon), S Bai (Clermont Auvergne, capt), N Roko (Yokogawa); N Little (Bath), M Rauluni (Saracens); A Tarogi (Suva Highlanders), V Veikoso (Mavoci), V Seuseu (Korovuto), W Lewaravu (London Welsh), I Rawaqa (Fighting Bulls), A Satala (Gloucester), A Qera (Gloucester), A Boko (Tau). Replacements: I Ledua (FTG), G Dewes (Esher), L Nakarawa (Army), S Bola (Police), W Vatuvoka (Duavata), J Matavesi (Exeter), T Nagusa (Ulster).
Referee: M Jonker (South Africa).
*Freddie Burns kicked all the points to help Gloucester to a 12-9 victory against Leicester last night, while Worcester and Bath drew 12-12 in an error-strewn contest at Sixways.Reuse content