Rugby - Ireland bring in reinforcements to NZ touring squad

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Ireland v United States - Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland - July 10, 2021 Ireland's Stuart McCloskey in action with United States' Calvin Whiting and Michael Baska Pool via REUTERS/Donall Farmer

(Reuters) - Ireland have called prop Ed Byrne and centre Stuart McCloskey into their touring squad in New Zealand after a rash of injuries and positive COVID-19 tests.

Byrne, who arrived on Saturday, will supplement the six props already in the country, two of whom were unavailable for the loss to the All Blacks in the series opener at Eden Park.

Finlay Bealham was a late withdrawal from the bench for the match after testing positive for COVID, while Jeremy Loughman is undergoing concussion protocols after taking a head knock early in the last Wednesday's match against the Maori All Blacks.

McCloskey will arrive on Monday to replace fellow midfielder James Hume, who was sent home after suffering a groin injury in the tour match against the Maori.

Replacement hooker Dave Heffernan also suffered a criteria one concussion in the first test and will have to undergo the 12-day return to play protocol, the team said on Monday.

Munster rake Niall Scannell was flown over last week as cover for the injured Rob Herring, who will return to training on Monday.

Captain Johnny Sexton also took a head knock in the test but coach Andy Farrell is hoping he can still back up in the second test in Dunedin on Saturday. The playmaker will complete his Head Injury Assessment later on Monday.

There was better news on the COVID front with outside back Mack Hansen out of isolation after his positive test, while Bealham should be back with the squad later this week.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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