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Farrell believes his men can bounce back - 'I know the group and how they feel. They’re not dejected'

Ireland boosted by arrival of Stuart McCloskey and return of Mack Hansen to the squad.

Mack Hansen is out of isolation.
Mack Hansen is out of isolation.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MACK HANSEN HAS completed his period of isolation and is available to play for Ireland in the second test of their summer tour against New Zealand on Saturday.

The Connacht wing tested positive for Covid last week and subsequently missed Ireland’s opening two games of the tour, against the Maori All Blacks last Tuesday and then New Zealand on Saturday.

Hansen’s return coincides with Ed Byrne’s arrival. The prop landed in New Zealand on Saturday evening as cover for Cian Healy, who has an ankle injury, and Jeremy Loughman, who suffered a concussion. Dave Heffernan was also concussed in Saturday’s game against the All Blacks so both he and Loughman have to follow the 12-day return to play protocols.

In other news, Stuart McCloskey arrives in Auckland today while James Hume is on his way back to Belfast. Rob Herring and Harry Byrne are expected to take a full part in training this week and Finlay Bealham will be available to train later this week once his period of isolation is complete.

The result of Johnny Sexton’s latest HIA result should be known by this evening (Irish time).

With injuries and Covid cases making the logistics of this trip troublesome, the issue of coach Andy Farrell’s decision to bring just 40 players for a five-game tour has arisen. The Ireland coach, however, is unperturbed by the difficulties he and his staff have had to face.

“Well it doesn’t get any harder than this so the reference is always there for us down the track – remember when we did this, remember when we had no excuses, remember when we dug in and went hard together, all 40 of us, you know, including the staff on the back of that,” said Farrell. “That’s a good reference point.

andy-farrell-during-the-warm-up Andy Farrell after Saturday's match. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“We talk about for the last three years, giving people an opportunity and we’ve got to find opportunities and yes, it might be difficult but it tests our resolve. So we get to find out about ourselves – who can deal with pressure like this, staff and players.

“So this, again, is priceless for us.”

Touring New Zealand brings its challenges – and that’s only off the pitch. On it, Ireland have struggled in the two games, not just in the set-piece but also at the breakdown.

“The interpretation of the breakdown over here, whether it be over here or the refereeing – we need some answers as far as that’s concerned, so we can put our own stuff right,” Farrell said after Saturday’s 42-19 defeat.

He’ll be hoping replacement prop, Cian Healy, will be there to assist him in his quest to ‘put their stuff right’. The veteran has been battling an injury and remained on the bench for the entire 80 minutes on Saturday.

“He has fought tooth and nail to do everything for his team-mates to get back fit and if required he would have been on there and done a sterling job,” said Healy.

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“But, it’s a few days’ turnaround and there is a bit of swelling to the ankle so it would help him for the rest of the tour and to make sure that gets a little bit more rest; but I can’t thank him enough for his efforts this week.”

The coach also believes Ireland can bounce back and square the series on Saturday.

“I know the group. I know how they feel,” said Farrell. “They’re not dejected in there. They feel like it’s an opportunity missed, but at the same time, they know what they did well.

“There is obviously a feeling of the reasons why they New Zealand got the opportunities to score because they play some great rugby. I suppose that goes for both changing rooms, doesn’t it? Everyone knows the truth. So, therefore we can take heart from things.

“But, having said that, there is plenty that we need to fix up as well – set-piece wise, being clinical when getting over the try line and making sure that we stay disciplined throughout are the three things that we need to address.”

About the author:

Garry Doyle  / reports from Auckland

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