The Irish squad have been hit with an ill-timed and unsettling development after the IRFU confirmed a potential positive Covid case has been identified in one person in the Ireland squad on the eve of tomorrow’s Autumn Series test against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium.
“A potential positive case has been identified in one person via the latest PCR testing carried out on the Ireland squad,” read the IRFU statement, adding: “Additional testing is being undertaken to establish if this is a false positive.”
The statement also said that “the entire Ireland squad and management have undergone additional lateral flow and PCR testing today. The lateral flow testing returned no positives and the PCR results are expected later today.
“Further updates will follow later today.”
Although unconfirmed, apparently Connacht hooker Dave Heffernan has been placed on standby.
Rónan Kelleher had been picked to start while Rob Herring had been promoted at the expense of last week’s debutant Dan Sheehan. That alongside Iain Henderson’s promotion from the bench and Tadhg Beirne’s relegation to the replacements were the only changes to the match-day 23.
It remains to be seen if there are any further potential positive cases or proven close contacts, but Ireland may well be forced into further changes now.
Confirming that “a couple” of players had missed today’s captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby admitted: “If it wasn’t challenging already, it gets more challenging when you deal with certain things that are outside your control. 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.
“Our ability to adapt and make sure we still get on the front foot, we did that today . . . . We’ve had a couple of pot-holes 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.”