Ireland are hosting New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday afternoon; Andy Farrell’s side were hit by a ‘potential’ Covid case on Friday, but further testing has determined it to a false positive
Last Updated: 12/11/21 9:33pm
Ireland say the “potential case” of coronavirus in their squad ahead of Saturday’s autumn international against New Zealand in Dublin has been confirmed as a false positive.
Ireland’s plans for the Test were thrown into doubt on Friday when a player returned a positive Covid test, forcing him and a close contact into isolation.
The entire squad and management then undertook a further round of lateral flow and PCR tests, which returned no positives.
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The player that originally tested positive took two PCR tests, which produced negative results at separate testing laboratories.
Public health and tournament organisers have now cleared all players to take their places in the matchday squad, meaning Ireland’s XV will be the same as the one named by Andy Farrell, the head coach, earlier this week.
Speaking on Friday – before the false positive was confirmed – Simon Easterby, Ireland’s defence coach, said: “We’ve retested today and the important thing is we get clarity.
“You can have false positives and we have to make sure we give those guys an opportunity, give the respect to them, and it’s important we allow that process to happen.
“They are part of the game – we’re not the only team across the last couple of weeks who’ve had to deal with Covid issues.
“The important thing is we stay focused and don’t allow the little things that happen derail us.”
England captain Owen Farrell – son of Andy Farrell – last week missed his country’s win over Tonga following a positive test which later turned out to be false.
Ireland, who thumped Japan 60-5 last weekend, have won just two of 32 previous meetings with the All Blacks.
Following the hosts’ captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium, Easterby said there was no danger of the fixture being called off.
“If it wasn’t challenging already, it gets more challenging when you deal with certain things that are outside your control,” he said.
“But I guess that’s part of the challenge. The game certainly won’t run all our way, it won’t run smoothly all the time.
“We’ve had a couple of potholes in the road today, but we have had a really good team run.
“There’s a bit of clarity needed about the players who didn’t make that team run, but hopefully in the next couple of hours we’ll have that and we can look forward to tomorrow and put today behind us.”
Sky Sports’ Michael Cantillon
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has made one change to his starting XV to take on the All Blacks, as Ulster lock Iain Henderson comes in to start.
As a result of Henderson starting alongside James Ryan, Munster’s Tadhg Beirne is dropped down to the bench as second-row cover.
Elsewhere, the side remains the same, as Leinster wing James Lowe – who was dropped during the Six Nations, such was his poor form – retains his place on the left wing.
The other major selection call sees scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park start over Conor Murray, with the latter beginning on the bench.
Again, Farrell picks an Ireland XV to start which contains 12 Leinster players, with five experienced Munster performers on the bench in reserve.
Full-back Hugo Keenan combines with Munster’s Andrew Conway and Lowe in the back three, while Robbie Henshaw has not recovered from injury in time to start over either Garry Ringrose or Connacht’s Bundee Aki in the centres.
Skipper Johnny Sexton partners Gibson-Park at half-back, while a powerful all-Leinster front-row of Andrew Porter, Ronan Kelleher and Tadhg Furlong start again.
The back-row, which is also all Leinster, sees Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan all start.
On the bench, there is one further alteration to last week’s squad as Ulster hooker Rob Herring replaces Dan Sheehan.
Cian Healy and Finlay Bealham provide loosehead and tighthead cover respectively, while Munster quintet Beirne, Peter O’Mahony, Murray, Joey Carbery and Keith Earls complete the replacements.
Ireland: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 James Lowe, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park; 1 Andrew Porter, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Iain Henderson, 5 James Ryan, 6 Caelan Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 8 Jack Conan.
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Keith Earls.