hend-ooh | 

Major blow to Ireland’s tour of New Zealand as Iain Henderson is ruled out through injury

Iain Henderson during Ireland rugby squad training at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Iain Henderson during Ireland rugby squad training at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Cian Tracey in AucklandIndependent.ie

Ireland have been dealt a major blow before a ball has been kicked on their New Zealand tour, as Iain Henderson has been ruled out through injury.

Henderson damaged his knee in training last Saturday, and having subsequently undergone a scan, the results revealed significant damage.

The Ulster captain, who has been dogged by injuries, is due to fly home to Ireland to seek further medical consultation.

For now at least, Andy Farrell has decided not to call up a replacement for the luckless Henderson.

Despite not having played since the Six Nations due to a thigh injury, Tadhg Beirne is now expected to start alongside James Ryan, who sat out training in Auckland today, in Saturday's first Test against New Zealand at Eden Park.

The All Blacks camp has been rocked with further Covid setbacks after key winger Will Jordan became the latest member of the squad to test positive.

“Ah, it is what it is, you know? We are in the same boat ourselves,” Farrell said.

“We have one case (Mack Hansen) and we could have a few more cases by the end of the week, we don't know.

“This is the way of the world, isn't it? The motto of the tour is definitely being adaptable. I mean, when you look at our situation, it's not far off what's happening with the All Blacks anyway.

“We know our preparation is completely different to what it would normally be. We are training with a squad of 23 guys who are getting ready for a Maori game and then we've got 13 or 14 guys who are getting ready for a Test match.

“So, the Test match boys are not training with the subs etc. We are waiting to see how the Wednesday night game goes, who is going to get picked to take to the field in the 23 for the Test match.

“We picked that on purpose because we want to be adaptable. We want to put ourselves under pressure. I am sure the All Blacks are thinking the same.”

With All Blacks head coach Ian Foster currently isolating, along with his assistants John Plumtree and Scott McLeod, Joe Schmidt has been drafted into the coaching team.

Farrell, however, played down going up against his former Ireland boss.

“Ah, I don't know if it's head-to-head,” he insisted.

“I am sure Fozzy (Foster) will be around somewhere. I think Joe is just helping out by being an extra pair of hands. I am sure that Joe is just fitting into the system.

“I am supposed to be meeting him for a coffee on Thursday. I don't know whether that's out of the question or not, but we'll soon see.

“I mean, what can he (Schmidt) bring? He's coming into a system that he probably doesn't know as well. It's not his system, is it?

“So, I'm sure he is just bringing his one-to-one expertise and advice to the coaches etc, and that's pretty profound isn't it? I am sure they will all try learn something off him.”

For now, Farrell's main focus is on tomorrow's opening game of the tour against the Maori All Blacks, as the Ireland boss named a much-changed team, which includes five uncapped players.

“It's huge,” Farrell added.

“It's everything to these players who are taking to the field tomorrow. It's the biggest game of their lives, you know? It is.

“I know there is a three-game Series coming up but these two Maori games for us in terms of what we're trying to build and how we are trying to put people under pressure and see how they come that is just as important. I can say it that way. I think that speaks for it all really.”

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