David Kelly: Healy's moment of madness could ruin Lions hopes
Published 14/02/2013 | 04:00
As current Irish captain Jamie Heaslip ruefully observed when receiving a yellow card at a crucial stage of the November international against South Africa, it is up to the individual player to take responsibility for his on-field actions.
This, regardless of any aggravating factors, is what his Leinster and Ireland colleague Cian Healy simply failed to do when deciding to take the law into his own hands during last weekend's defeat to England at Lansdowne Road.
Now, instead of perhaps only missing 10 minutes of action had the referee Jerome Garces deemed a sin-binning to be sufficient punishment, he will instead miss two vital Six Nations games as a result of his reckless actions.
Let's recall Heaslip's reaction to his yellow-card infringement for a merely technical offside offence during that South African Test.
"As captain, I should have been leading by example," he said. "It wasn't a good example set, getting yellow-carded.
"I put my hand up straight away afterwards. I'm better served on the field than off it."
Heaslip was undeniably explaining that he had his let his team-mates down. Healy (right) has unequivocally done the same and, given the strain already on the Irish squad due to injuries, his absence has grossly imperilled Ireland's uncertain championship prospects.
Healy has paid the price for seeing the red mist descend upon him and, even though the player upon whom he stamped, Dan Cole, was not injured and was himself involved in illegal activity, the laws of rugby do not allow for a player to assume the role of lawmaker.
Instead, Healy was correctly deemed a lawbreaker and now he must suffer the consequences, even though the IRFU have some justification in querying the IRB's decision to extend a ban that nominally ends on March 3 by another week.
An IRB regulation allows judicial officers to overlook a playing weekend where a player is unlikely to play – ie, Healy was unlikely to play for Leinster this weekend under IRFU's player management guidelines.
It is a battle that will be unlikely to gain much credence in official circles, particularly as the IRB have, in the Adam Thomson case last November, demonstrated that they frown on any semblance of leniency on stamping.
As for Healy, the ban has come at a most inopportune time as his barnstorming form had propelled him into the reckoning for a starting berth on Warren Gatland's Lions side to face Australia next summer.
Gatland was in Dublin and, aside from the stamp on Cole, he would have taken cognisance of a 10-minute period when it seemed as if the player was gradually losing his temper. Cool heads will be required on that assignment as Gatland is keen to ensure that his side contains as few 'marked men' as possible.
And now Healy has denied himself a two-game window to amplify his credentials.
His difficulty now creates opportunity for others, chiefly Munster's Dave Kilcoyne, who bumped the luckless Tom Court from the Irish squad last November on the back of some scintillating displays for his province in the Heineken Cup.
Court, who has expressed his bitterness at being excluded from Irish contention since being humiliated in the uncomfortable tight-head slot at Twickenham last March, may have to be content with a place on the bench.
For Healy, a totally unnecessary stint on the couch almost inevitable awaits, in the likely event that an appeal to the disciplinary authorities is dismissed.