Thursday 14 December 2017

Healy hopes to put a few more miles on the clock

Healy will be 30 in October, and with 67 caps he is firmly in the senior citizen camp on this tour. Photo: Sportsfile
Healy will be 30 in October, and with 67 caps he is firmly in the senior citizen camp on this tour. Photo: Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

The first thing you think of when touring in the US is where the team will train, and how close will it resemble a rugby pitch.

For Ireland yesterday, that was in the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, a soccer pitch with goalposts extensions strapped on for effect. You have to remind yourself this is not a Tier 1 rugby nation.

Whatever, the tourists - having arrived safely on Monday afternoon into JFK, and got over the hiccup of some of the support staff being ferried later as there wasn't enough transport for the whole group - came through a light session without incident.

For Cian Healy, it was a handy enough spin in what has been a good season for him, despite being in the shadow of Jack McGrath. He was a contender for the Lions, and is still in that frame if injury opens the door. But not making the original party was no surprise.

"You can't expect to go on a tour like that when you're on the bench, ever," he said. "You can be hopeful; you can be 50-50 (game-time) or 25 per cent depending on whoever is the sup prop going around.

"It's in the back of your head for a bit, but at the same time I was just fairly focused on playing rugby.

"I hadn't been focused on pushing ahead of Jack for this season at all - it was a lot of just play as good as possible and get to a level where I'm happy with what I'm doing because there was such a long period when I wasn't happy with the rugby I was playing.

Personal "So when the body felt right again this season, and I had the chance to let it rest last summer, I just kind of took it as a personal thing to get back to my level."

Healy will be 30 in October, and with 67 caps he is firmly in the senior citizen camp on this tour.

His issue has been with getting enough game-time to tide him over for when the prospect of 70 or 80 minutes opens up. That's not easy when you're the man in waiting.

"That was definitely the case," he said. "I pulled up the Leinster coaches about it. 'What's going to happen if I have to play for longer?'

"We ended up in that situation in the last game (v Scarlets in the Guinness PRO12 semi-final) when Jack took a bump. I played my first 70 in four years.

"The tank was fairly empty by the end of that. But everything has felt good. I haven't felt over-exposed in any length of play I have had so happy enough."

There is a good chance he'll be clocking up decent mileage on Saturday? "Hopefully yeah. Listen, I want to play as much as I can. When you've missed as much rugby as I have you'll take every minute you get. A couple of runs of games with 60 or 70 minutes is the one thing I've missed. You need that to have - not the durability - but trust in yourself that you can back up (performances) constantly. Skill level, fitness level - I'm in a good place."

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