Sunday 21 January 2018

Injury and citing leave Healy's tour in tatters

Cian Healy of the Lions is treated for a leg injury during the tour match against Western Force and the
Cian Healy of the Lions is treated for a leg injury during the tour match against Western Force and the

Chris Hewett and Conor George IN AUSTRALIA

Cian Healy's Lions tour is in tatters after the Ireland prop forward saw his Australia dream turn into a nightmare inside 17 bizarre minutes against Western Force.

Cian Healy's Lions tour is in tatters after the Ireland prop forward saw his Australia dream turn into a nightmare inside 17 bizarre minutes against Western Force.

Healy's days Down Under hang in the balance after being stretchered off five minutes before half-time with a nasty ankle ligament injury – not to mention being cited for an alleged biting offence over an incident in the 18th minute of the game against the severely understrength Super 15 side.

The 25-year-old Leinster loosehead specialist faces a disciplinary hearing in Brisbane after today's long flight from one side of Australia to the other.

Tomorrow, he will have a hospital scan to determine the extent of ligament damage caused when he fell awkwardly in a tackle by the flanker Angus Cottrell. If the hearing goes against the Irishman, his tour will be over before the medical results are received.

Even if he is acquitted of the biting charge laid against him by the South African citing commissioner Freek Burger, there is every possibility that he will find himself on an early flight back home.

Healy's face was a study in agony as he fell to the floor after Cottrell's tackle and the Lions medics were quick to summon reinforcements so the 17st 9lb front-rower could be carried off.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland said: "They've just said it is not broken, but they think it is ligament damage, so we will just have to wait for 24 to 48 hours and see what happens."

Asked about the alleged biting incident, Gatland said: "I know as much as you know. I think the citing guy has had a look at it and he can't see anything."

The game was held up while television match official Glenn Newman looked at replays from different angles of any alleged offence, but nothing materialised from that footage. And Force head coach Michael Foley refused to elaborate on it at his post-match press conference, saying only: "It was dealt with by the referee at the time."

Lions officials were so downbeat about Healy's prospects of continuing the tour that they immediately sent word to Argentina to summon the England prop Alex Corbisiero as a replacement.

Corbisiero has only just returned from long-term injury, but is highly regarded by Gatland.

UPHELD

"We need to get Alex over here as quickly as possible," said Gatland, who wants Corbisiero to join up with the squad before their departure from Brisbane on Sunday and then challenge the experienced Wales prop Gethin Jenkins and the fast-developing England loosehead Mako Vunipola for a Test role.

Healy is accused of clashing with the Force scrum-half Brett Sheehan – a spiky character who had raised the temperature of the build-up to the fixture by expressing his desire for an "extremely physical game" – in the 17th minute of a one-sided contest in which the Lions scored nine tries in their 69-17 victory.

The match was stopped by Glen Jackson, the New Zealand referee, when Sheehan complained of being bitten at a ruck.

Jackson consulted the television official, Glenn Newman, but the immediate investigation yielded nothing in the way of hard evidence and no action was taken.

Afterwards, the Western Force hierarchy showed no interest in pursuing the matter. "It's been left on the field and we don't need to talk about it any more," said Michael Foley, the head coach.

But Sheehan was asked for a statement by the citing officer, who made his decision some four hours later. Max Duthie, a lawyer who is travelling with the Lions, was preparing to represent Healy, who will face a minimum ban of three months if found guilty of the offence.

One difficulty with any mitigation plea is the three-week suspension that Healy picked up for stamping on Dan Cole, the England prop and his front-row colleague in the game yesterday, during the Six Nations match in February.

Meanwhile, there were fears that Munster scrum-half Conor Murray would be cited for an alleged stamp on Force centre Ed Stubbs. Burger also took a closer look at the incident but decided there was no further action accruing from the episode.

Stubbs was, ironically enough, sent to the sin-bin for ball-killing in the same incident.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport