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Healy fired up for 'Le Crunch'

The present task measures the man from the dreamer. For Cian Healy, what has gone on before is irrelevant. Tomorrow evening he knows that words will count for little unless they are matched by deeds, so all of the various variables will be cast to history.

Despite the recent winter snap, it didn't deter the gusto or the excitement levels in training over the past fortnight. Frustrations aside at successive postponed fixtures, the players regrouped earlier this week determined to display the same levels of professionalism and preparation for the visit of an improving Brive side.

As games go, tomorrow evening's visit of the French side might well be deemed 'le crunch', but for Healy -- who looks set to make his 50th Leinster appearance -- he will treat it the same as any other.

Though green in terms of years, the Ireland international prop has already amassed an impressive tally of caps in a little under three years of professional rugby, testament both to his physical and mental fortitude.

The Clontarf tyro credits the coaching and conditioning staff who guided him through the early games, and over the past two years he has made a steady increase in consistency, which earned him an Ireland debut during the recent November series.

Healy's story thus far might well be something along the lines of other famous ex-Belvederian, James Joyce's 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man'. A keen painter, he might appreciate the title.

No more than he prefers to look too far to the future, Healy is also hesitant about dwelling on past glories. For the challenge that beckons, he stresses, is the most important game of them all.

"That has always been my philosophy when it comes to rugby because you can get trapped in the past", the former Belvedere prop admitted ahead of this weekend's clash.

"Everyone has been flying in training, and the training has been hard and competitive: exactly what you expect when you are preparing for a big game. So even though we haven't played a game over the last fortnight, we have approached this week in a positive frame of mind."

Healy is also eager to step out once more in the RDS for the first time in three weeks, which has become a home from home for the Northside Dubliner.

"You can sense a really strong atmosphere in the build up to home games, absolutely, and that buzz just gets bigger and better as the match week continues. The drive to the ground on matchday is one of my favourite times of the week. You're psyched up and ready to play and it gives you a really good feeling when you see supporters on the streets wearing their colours. We're very lucky that we tend to play more often than not in front of packed grounds in the RDS, but it isn't something that we ever take for granted."


Speaking of which, has the recent traffic standstill from last week had an effect on the team?

"When the weather's poor it's probably the one time when there's an element of lenience when it comes to timekeeping", he quipped. "But, in all seriousness, you just build around the weather and get on with things.

"We're lucky that the pitches that we use in UCD weren't hugely affected by the frost, so we could get on with most of our scrum work without too much fuss. You can't allow your focus to change, irrespective of external factors. You just get on with it.

"But you have to enjoy the snow. I mean, you're only young once ... "

January has always been a busy month for Healy, stemming back from his school days, so the thought of pressure isn't a new phenomenon for him. "A few years back you had Junior or Senior Cup games coming around, so you had that sense of excitement and adrenalin from a young age," he says.

"Nowadays the stakes are higher, but the hunger hasn't changed."

When you factor in the magnitude of these two Heineken Cup encounters, there's no danger of Healy's focus wavering. Particularly when he mentions the improvements in the Brive pack since their last meeting, which Leinster came out on the right side of a 36-13 win in the Stade Municipal some 12 weeks ago.

"They have improved greatly since round two and I was very impressed with their pack and how they tried to attack us up front in the scrum. They're a very capable set of forwards and we're expecting a physical, hard fought game.

"It's vital that we gain dominance from the off. We will do our best to achieve that aim.

"We are conscious of the need to back up our two wins over the Scarlets in December and there were areas that needed fine-tuning from our performances over both weeks, and again in the league game against Ulster last time out.

"Our preparation has been good and we have approached training with the mindset that we want to win."

In every sense it's a case of all systems go for Healy.

Let the battle commence.