Munster prop John Hayes still has a future at Test level according to Ireland head coach Declan Kidney.
The Magners League veteran was left out of the Ireland squad for Saturday’s clash with South Africa, prompting speculation that his international career was effectively at an end.
But Kidney has categorically refuted that suggestion, stating that Hayes still has a role to play for his country, despite being 37.
"Not at all is this the end for John, definitely not," said Kidney, ahead of the first ever rugby international at the new Aviva Stadium.
"It hasn't been easy to leave guys out but that's my job. Guys will still have a role to play in the next 12 months."
Hayes has been omitted in favour of club colleague Tony Buckley, who starts at tighthead prop with Leinster’s Cian Healy chosen at loosehead and Ulster’s Tom Court providing cover from the replacements bench.
Buckley has long been tipped to take over from Hayes in the Ireland front row, while Court’s ability to play both sides of the scrum has seen him keep Hayes out of the matchday 22 entirely.
"Tony took his break during the summer tour very well and he's backed that up with a few good performances since,” added Kidney.
"John was unfortunate because he fell ill at the start of the tour and didn't get his energy back, so didn't get a go at it.
"Now it's Tony's opportunity and that's because of the progress he's made in his career.
"Tom Court has been playing 80 minutes recently and the advantage for him is that he's the one prop who has had time on both sides of the scrum.
"In a 22-man squad you have to look at that tactically.”