Friday 23 February 2018

Healy ready to take more measured approach in duel with McGrath

Leinster's Cian Healy. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Leinster's Cian Healy. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Quietly and with little fuss, Cian Healy is amassing a body of work this season that suggests he is, whisper it, over the succession of injuries that have plagued him since 2013.

The problem is, Healy doesn't do things quietly and with little fuss. His game is based around loud noises, big scrum wins and frightening collisions. He is one of the few true power-athletes that have come through the Irish system, and when he is at his best he is an asset to any side.

During his long battle for fitness, he has watched Jack McGrath take possession of his No 1 shirts for Leinster and Ireland with the steely determination of a man who isn't about to give them up without a fight.

Healy retains the trust of his coaches: Joe Schmidt chose him to start the World Cup quarter-final against Argentina and he has been handed a three-year national contract, while Leo Cullen knows what he's got.

Since the harrowing loss to the Pumas, McGrath has been the first choice for Leinster and Ireland, and tonight's game against Castres is an opportunity for Healy to give a reminder of what he can do from the start.

His last big chance came as an experienced man in an inexperienced team at Thomond Park, where a succession of penalties undermined his efforts. This time he is determined to make his mark for the right reasons.

"I'm just trying to take every opportunity that's been given," he said when asked about his form.

"The Munster game a while back, I performed poorly on the discipline front, and that was itching away at me.

"You can't afford to do that when you're given the opportunities.

"Apart from that, it's been edging away in the right direction.

"I was fairly high-strung going into that game, yeah. Silly sort of penalties like that I think is trying to push a bit too far, and not really playing naturally.

"So I'll try and do that and be as relaxed as possible against Castres."

There would appear to be no better proving ground for a prop forward than the south of France, and Healy's coach Cullen highlighted the Top 14's set-piece as one area he's expecting his team to be tested in tonight.

But Healy is not overly concerned given the standard of scrummaging he's been encountering on the Rosemount training pitch at UCD, where the Leinster front-rows go at it with live scrum-sessions under the watchful eye of John Fogarty.

"Anywhere now we're going we're not going to have as difficult a task as we have on the paddock out the back (here)," said Healy.

"There's lads here going for Leinster and national jerseys against each other and the level the scrum sessions get to is better than in most games.

"I think Fogs has us prepared pretty well with what we've been doing and how hard we've been going against each other, pushing or limiting how much we do to look after us."

Although this is the last chance to impress Schmidt ahead of his naming of the Six Nation squad after the weekend's action, Healy is fully focused on the task at hand and securing a home quarter-final.

"It's about doing ourselves justice here," he said. "We've done well and we've played quite well bar a couple of games that didn't go to plan, but to be able to come out of this section of games pretty happy with what we've done we'd take a win in this game.

"Having a good defensive effort and putting together some of our plays pretty well - not to just scrape a win, (but) to win playing the rugby we want to."

Irish Independent

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