Thursday 21 September 2017

Healy looking out for number one as he gets ready to 'explode' into action off the bench

Returning prop steeled for battle as he admits Leinster colleague Jack McGrath 'owns' his Ireland jersey

At some stage today, Cian Healy will emerge from the bench for the first time in 24 championship matches for Ireland.
At some stage today, Cian Healy will emerge from the bench for the first time in 24 championship matches for Ireland.
David Kelly

David Kelly

AT some stage today, Cian Healy will emerge from the bench for the first time in 24 championship matches for Ireland.

"I've scored a load of tries off the bench!" smiles the Clontarf man, who is preparing for his first competitive action in five months since ripping his hamstring off the bone in a freak training accident.

Around the same juncture, Uini Atonio will lumber from the bench; he will concede a half stone to his rival but the mythology from this week has marked Ireland down as relative Lilliputians compared to their visitors; the stats betray the fact, as Ireland's pack is heavier.

Healy, whose abrasiveness was at once betrayed by his shocking injury in a breakneck sprint in training, must counter his renowned swashbuckling style for the good of the team. Well, almost.

"If I get a ball and I have one or two to beat that's when I'll be allowed to explode at it," he says. "You'll go hard at the scrum. I'm not saying I'm going to be going forward when I get in.

"You don't want to go in and try to do the miracle play and mess everything up. If I get involved, do a job first and if anything else happens, great.

"It's going to be a tough old battle but if the case came that it was going up on that side, it's something you have to think about, to not put the rest of your team and what they're working for in jeopardy.

"There's every chance I'll be coming on against the. . . whatever he is, 150kg of a prop," he adds, skewing the official figures a tad.

"There are ways of dealing with those type of props, it's lucky it's not the old ways of scrummaging. That would have been a tough day at the office. You can work with your front-row and your pack to put yourself into a position that suits you."

Cohesion is key.

"You have to work as one unit to go forward, and not to start shifting around. We just have to keep our tension. There is a lot of togetherness that is needed in a scrum at international level.

"There are pressures coming from everywhere. If I'm not tight with my hooker, the flanker is not tight with my leg, or the second-row is not on me, it's going to be a bad time.

"The fact we're a heavier pack doesn't necessarily matter. It's the togetherness of one pack against the togetherness of another, you know.

"Whatever pack is on song in terms of hitting together and moving forward together, all feet marching at the same time, pressure coming on at the same time, that's the way towards going to beat teams these days.

"You can see from November, the scrum was one of the pivotal points in the whole thing. Even going back further, the set-piece provided such a good platform.

"So I don't think we're in a position where we have to worry about our scrum. It's something we can look at as a big platform to play with."

Healy knows he needs to make an impression for the team, but also to wrestle back his number one status in the No 1 slot.

"Jack McGrath is owning that jersey at the moment and I've got to put in performances to try and get it," he says.

"It's terrible but I was delighted as well, watching him in November he had some serious performances and then all through the season with Leinster.

"It's tough to watch but we work so well as a team that I'm delighted to see him going out and killing other props and playing well.

"But that as well kept me in mind to stay on top of my diet, to do the extra bit of rehab because you know you're not going to go back in and slot straight into a position, you're going into a fight."

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