Thursday 14 December 2017

O'Connor hails 'freak' Healy after man-of-the-match display

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

MATT O'CONNOR paid tribute to the freakish talents of Cian Healy after his man-of-the-match display in Leinster's win over the Ospreys last night.

The Clontarf prop gave an exhibition of his skills in the victory that seals the three-time champions place in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals as he helped drag them through a disappointing performance against 14 men for much of the game.

Healy dominated Lions tighthead Adam Jones at scrum time, carried and tackled brilliantly and scored his side's opening try in a dominant display.

Having surprised everybody with a whirlwind recovery from the ankle injury he suffered in December that saw him make his return four weeks ahead of schedule in Castres last weekend, his outstanding performance will have been noted by Ireland coach Joe Schmidt ahead of the Six Nations.

"He's a freak, isn't he?" O'Connor said.

"He's a world class scrummager, he carries the ball, he belts blokes in defence -- he's all over the place.

"He's fantastic for us, he gives us so much. How he recovered in five weeks, I'll never know."

There was little to praise about the rugby played on a cold night in Ballsbridge, but the return of Richardt Strauss to a rapturous reception from the RDS crowd certainly enlivened proceedings.

Just three months after discovering a hole in his heart and undergoing surgery that appeared to end his season, the South African born, Ireland international threw himself back into the fray with abandon.

"That's a positive story," his coach said with a smile. "The surgeons initially thought he'd be on the blood-thinning medicine for six months, but he responded so well post surgery that they took him off the medicine 10 days ago and gave him the all clear to play.

"It's brilliant for him and brilliant for us. It was all about how quickly he healed, it wasn't an active thing that the medical team or he could do to prolong it, it's just that he healed quickly, he's a young, healthy guy and that put him in a spot that he could come back."

The coach now must sit through two days of rugby with his side's future out of his hands before managing a completely different challenge as his frontliners head into camp for the Six Nations.

"It's a huge period for us in the league, we'll have a largely different group for the Six Nations and the boys have a thoroughly deserved week off. The 'A' boys are doing well and we'll have a look at it and we'll then get them up for Zebre," he added.

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