Easterby dismisses Healy fears
Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby has dismissed fears about Cian Healy's long-term durability after the loosehead prop suffered another injury set-back yesterday.
The Leinster star strained his hamstring during Thursday's training session at Carton House and was yesterday pulled from the bench named to face Italy at the Aviva Stadium this afternoon.
Connacht's Finlay Bealham has been promoted to the replacements and is set to win his first cap if introduced by Joe Schmidt. The Australian qualifies to play for Ireland through his maternal grandmother, who hailed from Enniskillen in County Fermanagh.
The versatile 24-year-old has been picked ahead of a string of specialists like James Cronin and Denis Buckley. He has been in camp since the beginning of the Six Nations and that experience, plus the timing of Healy's late withdrawal, mean he is considered the best man for the job.
Healy has had serious neck, hamstring and hand problems in the recent past and missed the first two games of the Six Nations campaign after undergoing knee surgery.
The IRFU had enough faith in the 28-year-old to hand him a three-year contract to remain at Leinster, but there are growing concerns over his body's ability to cope with the demands placed on it.
The Irish management have refused to rule the Clontarf native out of next week's final game against Scotland, however, and Easterby believes he will be a valuable member of the team for years to come.
"The way Cian prepares himself and manages himself is very good, he's diligent now and is mature in terms of years," he said.
"He has been through a lot of crappy days in terms of injuries and I think he's frustrated. When it's your profession and the years are ticking by, you want to be making the most of those opportunities.
"We're talking about a minor injury which we feel is for the protection of him and for the best of the team this weekend that he doesn't involve himself, but that doesn't mean we're ruling him out for next week.
"So there is another thing that has come up but this one is something minor and we feel that he can put this behind him over the next few days and hopefully prepare himself to train fully next week."
Ireland go in search of their first win of 2016 this afternoon and captain Rory Best says the players are more annoyed than anyone at their failure to secure a victory so far in this Six Nations.
"We're hugely frustrated that we're making silly mistakes, putting ourselves in really good positions and then just switching off for 30-60 seconds. That's costing us games," he said.
"Everyone's used to Ireland winning, to Ireland going into the last two rounds of the championship in contention. "Unfortunately, we're not there at the minute and that is going to be frustrating for everyone, I can assure you, no one more so than us as a playing group."