Friday 20 April 2018

Burn-out not an issue if you do things right – Healy

Leinster's Cian Healy
Leinster's Cian Healy
David Kelly

David Kelly

It didn't take long for the gags to come running.

How could Leinster possibly aspire to win both the Six Nations and the Heineken Cup in the same season?

Tiredness was one of the reasons ascribed to Leinster's disappointing defeat in Toulon last weekend, but Gordon D'Arcy, someone who has spent nearly 15 years engaged in the toil of nine-month seasons for club and country, strongly disagrees.

"I don't think so. We had a pretty big game the week before and we fronted up well in that and we had a good run into the Toulon game."

Cian Healy is of the same mind. "Nah, I had two weeks off after the Six Nations," he says. "I managed to rest the body and get the hunger up again."

Nevertheless, even within the Union-run Irish game, where players are predominantly protected from over-exposure compared to the privately-owned clubs in England and France, there are growing fears that the increased physical demands on players could be taking its toll.

We ask Healy, who has virtually been playing on one ankle for months now, whether he fancies trudging halfway up the Pampas for two summer Tests in Argentina.

"If I'm picked, I'll go," he stoutly declares. "I'm ready for any call."

Some may call this the bravery of a proud Irishman, others may call it folly. We will never know the dangers to which some Irish players have exposed their bodies this season. Which, given what we do know, is a frightening thought.

Players have struggled through games with bad injuries. Rory Best played on with a broken wrist. Dan Tuohy played on with a broken forearm. Paul O'Connell played on with a broken arm (on the Lions tour, admittedly). Peter O'Mahony played on with a dislocated shoulder.

There have been countless concussions – most of them suffered by Connacht's Craig Clarke, it would appear – and only last weekend Andrew Trimble made a tackle, despite having received a concussive knock.

There may well be countless other instances where players have suffered injury and persisted through a game, but any player will tell you that nobody plays at 100pc fitness.

Healy refutes suggestions that the increased physicality of the game and workload for its leading characters should be a serious topic for debate.

"No, I don't think so," he says. "If the hunger is there, the respect for your body is there and if you're looking after it all, it's not a hard thing to do.

HANDY

"If you're eating right, treating your weekends right, it's a fairly handy week."

Nonetheless, surely there must be some give and take from the national management as they prepare for a World Cup year.

After all, last January, Joe Schmidt declared that he saw himself using anything between 25 and 30 players in the Six Nations championship, offering starts to a wide variety of players.

The harsh truth of the virgin territory into which he stepped was quite different – he used just 18 in the brilliantly successful campaign.

Now, as summer approaches, he must reapply his approach and ensure that he doesn't flog his players.

As far as Healy is concerned, it is up to players themselves to decide whether they need to rest up or otherwise, particularly at provincial level.

"It's an individual thing with different players," he says.

"If someone is feeling tired, they'll tell you and they'll get their time off. Around this time, management can look at things and give guys a weekend off to head to a spa or whatever.

"It's an important stage of the season for Matt (O'Connor, his Leinster coach) to talk to the lads and see what they need.

"I feel that's been going well. I've been given my time off. I've been asked how I feel leading into the big games.

"I've just been in a lucky position in terms of being able to work with Jack McGrath and the workloads for either of us haven't been too huge. We do a hard shift and empty the tank, then the other one goes in and finishes the job. I'm feeling good going into the rest of the season."

And the ankle?

"All good, yeah, ready to go. I just strap them up and try to keep 'em tight. It's only a bit of swelling that's coming back from old injuries. So once I'm looking after myself, I'm all good."

So, no need for surgery then?

"Nah! It'll be grand."

 

Five players who could be left out of Argentina tour

Johnny Sexton

It is quite preposterous that Ireland could even contemplate bringing the out-half – ironically, one who has regularly sustained injury on Ireland duty, despite the thinly-veiled disgust in some quarters of the IRFU that he chose to earn his hard-earned wages in France. Anyway, Schmidt needs to strengthen his out-half reserve options.

Mike Ross

In some cases, age profile and depth options form valid arguments for exclusion. Ross, beneath whom are a burgeoning list of challengers, presents a perfect example.

Gordon D'Arcy

There is an argument that the alternative to Brian O'Driscoll needs to play alongside D'Arcy. However, there is a greater argument which suggests that Schmidt needs to secure knowledge on his preferred alternative to D'Arcy.

Conor Murray

It seems as if Murray has been on a treadmill since breaking through to the 2011 World Cup squad. He has responded to every challenge, culminating in a Lions tour and a starring role in a Six Nations title-winning team. He does not need 'prospered in Argentina' on his CV – he needs a rest.

Rob Kearney

The logic here is that the returning three-quarters – Keith Earls, Tommy Bowe, Simon Zebo and Luke Fitzgerald – need to experience international rugby under Schmidt. Kearney doesn't.

Irish Independent

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