Healy reason I gave up rugby - Green
Published 03/03/2010 | 05:00
LAST weekend was a positive, reaffirming experience for the Ireland rugby team.
With the pre-match requirement to get the Paris hammering out of its system, Declan Kidney's squad needed a victory of any description at Twickenham against a side that was bullish on the back of two Six Nations victories and determined to preserve their Grand Slam ambitions.
With so much at stake, it was no great surprise that the teams engaged in a dour, dogged affair but, from an Irish point of view, the manner of the win -- scoring three tries to one, all via backline moves -- and the mental strength shown to come back from what threatened to be a winning drop goal by Jonny Wilkinson was extremely encouraging.
Looking ahead to the Wales and Scotland games, the high penalty count is something that will be addressed but the area that has drawn the greatest scrutiny is Ireland's scrum.
The scrummage is not as significant as it once was in terms of frequency but solidity at this set-piece is still essential to provide No 8 Jamie Heaslip and Ireland's potent backline with a platform to do damage.
It has been obvious since November that Ireland's scrum is seen by opponents as a weakness to be exploited and props Cian Healy and John Hayes have been targeted by Italy, France and England.
Last weekend, it led to a stream of penalties conceded as the Irish props earned the ire of referee Mark Lawrence and the South African was shaping up to show Hayes a yellow card before Kidney pulled him for Tony Buckley.
The fall-out from Saturday has seen England's management and media repeatedly cite their dominance in this set-piece but Ireland's props have now received wholehearted support from the Englishman best qualified to speak as to their qualities.
Will Green won four caps for England between 1997 and 2003 but the tight-head, an excellent technical scrummager, was unfortunate that his career coincided with a golden era for English rugby in that he was never to dislodge the likes of Darren Garforth, Phil Vickery and Julian White from the No 3 jersey.
Green won a Heineken Cup medal with Wasps before switching to Leinster in 2005 and it was there he was able to closely study Hayes' role with Munster and the development of Healy alongside him at Leinster. And, while Green resides firmly in the pro-Hayes camp, it is his observations on Ireland's loose-head that prove most arresting.
"Cian Healy is the reason I gave up rugby," he reveals. "I remember it was January/February 2007 and he was starting to come through at Leinster. We were doing live scrummaging sessions. I was 34 and here was this teenager who just wanted to rip my head off, and did rip my head off. It was a case of, 'actually, do you know what? It's time to stop'.
"He is some athlete, a natural, a fantastic player. It was funny then because I set up a sports management agency and I went back about three months later and did the contract for Cian, his first contract for Leinster, and it's great that he's gone on to bigger and better things with Ireland.
"He didn't need me though, his talent was so obvious. He is going to be a world-class prop, I mean the guy is only 22, which is phenomenal to be at the level he's at already.
"He's got a Heineken Cup under his belt, he has the scrummaging technique and core strength and he's got a good temperament as well. I've never seen a lad of that age with his sort of power. These Tests will stand to him because he is learning all the time. He is a huge bonus for Ireland.
"I have got nothing but respect for John Hayes. When I was over there I used to get a bit cross with some of the media slagging him. At the end of the day, the man has just won 100 caps for his country, which is absolutely phenomenal for a tight-head prop.
"If the people that write him off would actually like to spend one time in one scrum then they would know the hard work that goes into a scrum.
"At tight-head prop, there is no place to hide and John Hayes has not hidden once in his career. He's a guy that does a lot of the hard yards because of the way Marcus Horan plays. Marcus is out on the wing scoring tries and John has to hit rucks for him, Marcus is a fantastically mobile but someone must do the donkey work and John does."