Ireland have been forced into a late change to their bench ahead of this morning’s (8:05am) first Test against New Zealand at Eden Park after prop Finlay Bealham tested positive for Covid.
The Connacht tighthead had been forced into a covering role for both sides of the scrum when Andy Farrell named his matchday squad following an injury doubt surrounding Cian Healy in the wake of Wednesday’s loss to the Maori All Blacks in Hamilton.
Healy had replaced a concussed Jeremy Loughman in that game with the Munster loosehead now stood down for a mandatory 12-day period but the replacement failed to finish the game after hyperextending an ankle and was thought to be a doubt for the All Blacks series opener. Ireland called in his Leinster colleague Ed Byrne as a standby but Healy subsequently passed fit and was named as tighthead cover for the Test.
Now Bealham has been ruled out, Healy has switched to the loosehead replacement wearing 17 with Tom O’Toole added to the bench as tighthead cover.
Ed Byrne was still to arrive in Auckland after his flight was delayed in Doha and with him unable to serve as a support player in the pre-game warm-up, the Irish management has now turned to former Leinster player Michael Bent, now playing provincial rugby at Taranaki, to assist.
J Barrett; S Reece, R Ioane, Q Tupaea, L Fainga’anuku; B Barrett, A Smith; G Bower, C Taylor, O Tu'ungafasi; B Retallick, S Whitelock; S Barrett, S Cane – captain, A Savea.
S Taukei'aho, K Tu'inukuafe, A Ta'avao, P G Sowakula, D Papalii, F Christie, R Mo'unga, B Ennor.
H Keenan; K Earls, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe; J Sexton – captain, J Gibson-Park; A Porter, D Sheehan, T Furlong; T Beirne, J Ryan; P O’Mahony, J van der Flier, C Doris.
D Heffernan, C Healy, T O’Toole, K Treadwell, J Conan, C Murray, J Carbery, B Aki.
Karl Dickson (England)