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Dublin: 4°C Sunday 17 January 2021

Ireland call on Tracy as cover after captain Rory Best hit by stomach bug

Niall Scannell will make his debut in the starting team if Best does not recover.

Murray Kinsella reports from Stadio Olimpico

IRELAND CAPTAIN RORY Best has missed his team’s captain’s run in Rome due to a stomach bug, with Leinster’s James Tracy set to join the squad as precautionary cover.

Ulster hooker Best was absent as Joe Schmidt’s side went through their final run-out before tomorrow’s Six Nations clash with Italy at Stadio Olimpico [KO 2.25pm], although Ireland say they believe Best will be fit to play.

If he does not recover, Niall Scannell will start at hooker, with Tracy on the bench.

Rory Best Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Speaking after their captain’s run in Stadio Olimpico, Ireland assistant coach Simon Easterby confirmed that Best had been struck by a stomach bug overnight in Rome and hadn’t been able to sleep.

The 34-year-old was left behind at the team hotel to recover instead of joining the squad for the captain’s run, but Easterby insisted that Ireland are confident that Best will recover.

“He had a bit of a stomach upset overnight and he didn’t sleep particularly well,” said Easterby. “We just left him in the hotel to try and recuperate and get some sleep in before tomorrow.

“It’s just one of those things that you can’t predict for. We thought the best course of action was to leave him back in the hotel while we did our team run. He’s hopefully going to be ok with plenty of sleep and recovery over the next few hours.”

However, Ireland have called on the once-capped Tracy in case Best does not return to full health in time to take his place in the starting team, with the Leinster hooker set to fly in either tonight or first thing tomorrow morning.

Easterby says Ireland hope to make a final decision on Best this evening.

Munster’s Scannell is present in Rome, having been named on the bench, and would be in line for his Ireland debut as a starter if Best does not recover.

Easterby says the coaching staff are confident that Scannell is ready for a start on his debut.

“He wouldn’t be in the squad if we didn’t feel confident that he can transfer some really good form from Munster, certainly in the European Cup, and that’s the reason he is on the bench because we feel that he’s stepped up over the last couple of months.

“His preparation has been really good. Like all the players, they have to prepare to start the game or if there’s an injury during the game they have to prepare to come on early. So, we’re really confident that Niall can step up when asked.”

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Murray Kinsella

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