Friday 20 September 2019

Cian Healy: Talk of World Cup hangover is an excuse and we're not looking for those

Leinster’s Cian Healy along with Jack McGrath at training in UCD
Leinster’s Cian Healy along with Jack McGrath at training in UCD
Cian Healy has been handed a two week ban

Marcus Ó Buachalla

In the wider context of a week where sporting matters on the field have taken a back seat to matters in Paris and indeed more recently to the sad passing at 40 years of age of Jonah Lomu, it is hard sometimes to focus on life between the whitewash. But that is the task facing sporting organisations and in particular rugby clubs all over Europe as they try to deal with the week that was.

Cian Healy is the latest Leinster player to face the Wasps' music and like Johnny Sexton and Jordi Murphy before him, he doesn't seek any hiding place.

"Not at all. The events over in Paris and even World Cup hangovers or whatever other excuse you want to put our way to explain the performance doesn't stack up. We are professional athletes and our job is to perform over the 80 minutes," the Ireland front-row reflects.

"Like everyone else we were shocked by Paris and we paid our respects and I think the Leinster and Wasps fans played their part too - you could hear a pin drop during the minute's silence - but then we had a game to play and unfortunately we didn't turn up."

Surely the impact of coming back in after being away so long took its toll or maybe even the way it all ended against Argentina?

"Yeah maybe but again I just think we let ourselves down on Sunday," says Healy. "Credit to Wasps, they are a really good side but for me as a prop and the pack as a whole we let ourselves down on what we prepared. Scrum wise a few things came out that we need to look at.

"World Cup hangovers or whatever that's just excuses. It is a new environment with Leo and Fogs (John Fogarty) looking after the forwards and that brings its challenges and new calls and stuff but it is also brilliantly fresh and exciting and brings a new energy to a place. So for me and to be fair, for us as a group, all of those issues are just excuses and we're not looking for any."

Post-match video review sessions are now the norm but the Tuesday review this week if anything reinforced just what, and who, the players represent.

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"We are a hugely transparent group," Healy explains. "We don't hide and there was no hiding place earlier this week when we went through the Wasps game. It wasn't fun. But it shouldn't be. We looked at it and we took on board where we went wrong. Nobody backed away from the reality of what was presented.

"Leinster is also a special place. We are a successful club. We expect success and a certain standard. You look around the RDS last week. Close on 17,000 in supporting us. I think over a thousand supporters are travelling over to Bath this Saturday.

"There is a closeness. You meet the fans after the game, in and around town. They travel on our plane going to games, we bump into them in the hotel or in the airport. There is a sense of connection and that was also not lost on us. We want to perform for us and for the standards we set ourselves but we want to perform for them too."

So how do you move on and focus on Bath?

"To be honest I park a game in the dressing room after a game regardless of the result. That's not to say that I don't hurt or that I don't tune in for our review meetings but my focus in the dressing room after Wasps was already on Bath. What do I need to do over the next 24 hours to put myself in the best place possible to perform against Bath next Saturday?

"So I was already thinking recovery. I was thinking food. I was thinking extra video sessions or extra S&C sessions to get the body right. I also believe that you can't carry that loss around with you too much because lingering on a defeat and what went wrong won't help you beat Bath."

This ability to park and move on isn't lost either on a player who has just recently had a pretty hectic dose of perspective. A serious neck injury could have cost him his career. Down south, it cost former Leinster player Felix Jones his.

"I'm definitely enjoying my rugby more. This week it was raining pretty hard here in Dublin but you get out there and you enjoy it. Extra scrum sessions. No problem, bring it on," he enthuses.

"Here at Leinster we lost a fella like Kevin McLaughlin recently to retirement and that was difficult to take but for me Felix and his situation really hit home. We grew up together, played underage together, Academy together and the injury that cost him his livelihood was also a neck injury so I am very grateful for what I have and the ability to be training and playing.

"Those few weeks working away on your own, on the outside looking in, not knowing when the tide was going to turn in your favour, you really are staring into the abyss. So being back and in here with Leinster is brilliant and there is a realisation of what others like Felix and Kevin have lost so I intend to enjoy it as much as I can."

To Bath. To the Rec. To the realisation that it's now or never.

"I wouldn't go that far but we're not oblivious to the mathematics of it either. Bath themselves made the quarter-finals last year having lost their opening two games so you can't go into a game with those what ifs in your head. If you do it might lead to a different mind-set or a desperation during the game and we don't want that.

"There is no harm having an awareness because that can also be channelled in the right way and you can get an edge but what happened last Sunday or what will happen after the game is irrelevant. I can only look after the next ball that comes my way," he reasons.

"We can't lose focus either on a really good Bath team. In last year's quarter-final in the Aviva they had a bit of an unsettled scrum but we have seen in the Premiership this season that they are going well and that is something for us straight away to have on the radar.

"On our feed we need to provide clean ball to the eight who gives to the nine with a decent platform. On their feed we need to identify when and how we go after them but also making sure that we give our backs the best possible platform to defend from. But we believe that we have that performance in us and that we can match the best."

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