Friday 15 December 2017

Cian Healy: All Blacks performance means nothing now

Intense: Cian Healy’s performance against the All Blacks.
Intense: Cian Healy’s performance against the All Blacks.

Alasdair Reid

Ireland's Lazarus man, Cian Healy, has insisted last November’s 24-22 loss to New Zealand has no relevance to his side’s RBS Six Nations campaign, and has been put to bed by all the players involved.

Healy, who was expected to miss the early rounds of the Six Nations after suffering an ankle injury last year, made a swift recovery and returned in Leinster’s final Heineken Cup pool match, scoring a try in the 36-3 hammering of Ospreys.

But while Ireland’s battling performance against the All Blacks, who needed a last-minute try to win, has raised supporters’ expectations ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Scotland at the Aviva Stadium, Healy explained that the players had moved on.

“We’ve taken our good from it and taken our bad from it and worked on a lot of things and used different things,” the prop said. “It’s certainly not something we’re going back to for inspiration.”

Healy’s early return is a blessing for the player as well as his country after the disappointments he suffered last year. In the Six Nations he missed the match against Scotland after being banned for a stamping offence against England, and he left the Lions tour injured after playing just two games.

 In the absence of Sean O’Brien, who has a shoulder injury, Healy is likely to assume even more responsibility for adding dynamism to the Irish pack. He was untroubled by the burden. “Sean’s absence is a big thing but it’s not something we’ve focused on,” Healy said. “It happens all the time, if someone gets injured, someone else steps up.

“I get ball if I do my job well in the scrum and, if that’s going well, I’m free to play. That doesn’t really change whether players are playing or not. Everyone knows what we’re supposed to do and where we’re supposed to be and training has gone quite well. It’s a nice place to be in.”

Scotland have won just twice away from home in the Six Nations over the past 10 years, but one of those victories was their 23-20 win over Ireland at Croke Park in 2010, a result that denied the Irish the Triple Crown. However, Scotland captain Kelly Brown, who played that day, said that the win had only limited significance.

“That game shows we can win over in Ireland,” Brown said, “but all of the games in the past are in the past and don’t affect anything. It’s about us making sure we focus on ourselves and on our roles, and work hard and we’re physical. If we do that, we can put the Irish under pressure.

“I expect Ireland to come firing out in the first 20 minutes, so we need to match that fire at the start.”

Scotland will go into the game with a centre partnership of Duncan Taylor and Alex Dunbar, both of whom will be making their Six Nations debuts, against a likely Irish pairing of Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll.

“What’s exciting now is the blend that we’ve got,” Brown said. “We’ve got some older guys in the squad, but there’s a lot of young guys coming through. If you look at our back line now, there’s a lot of guys there with a cutting edge. We need to make sure we give them the ball in a bit of space.”

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