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'He just keeps producing' - Healy excited to play with 'freak show' James Ryan and rookie Andrew Porter

3 February 2018; James Ryan of Ireland ahead of the NatWest Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris, France. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
3 February 2018; James Ryan of Ireland ahead of the NatWest Six Nations Rugby Championship match between France and Ireland at the Stade de France in Paris, France. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Nick Purewal

Cian Healy has backed "freak show" James Ryan and powerhouse prop Andrew Porter to cement Ireland's scrum against Wales.

Ireland must host Wales in Saturday's NatWest 6 Nations clash without injured British and Irish Lions trio Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson and Robbie Henshaw.

Furlong and Henderson are both nursing hamstring issues, leaving rookie Leinster duo Ryan and Porter tasked with shoring up the hosts' scrum.

But Lions and 75-cap Ireland prop Healy insists his two fast-improving Leinster team-mates can easily handle the step up in intensity against Warren Gatland's side.

"If you look at Ports firstly, over the last year and a half what he's had to take in his stride - changing sides of the scrum, how he's developed that part of his game - it's more exciting than nervous to see what he's going to provide," said Healy.

"He's a very talented player, a very strong lad, and he's pretty comfortable to scrummage with; you don't feel like there's any deficit.

"And then there's the freak show that is James Ryan, he just keeps producing so that's exciting as well, and to have his energy behind you in the scrum as well is just brilliant.

"He'll be behind Ports, so that's going to be a strong side for us."

Ireland bashed away repeatedly without success in Cardiff last year, outscored three tries to nil in a 22-9 defeat to Warren Gatland's Wales.

Kiwi taskmaster coach Joe Schmidt has since been at pains to expand Ireland's attacking blueprint - but to a large extent has also fought to keep that under wraps.

Ahead of Saturday's chance to avenge last season's loss to Wales, though, Schmidt finally accepted Ireland have developed their attacking approach.

In defending Ireland's variety and style of play, Schmidt also confirmed an evolution of an attack - where Conor Murray, as well as Johnny Sexton, can now be expected to pop up frequently in midfield in phase play.

"What can you change? It's a game of rugby. Sometimes we kick, sometimes we run, sometimes we go wide, sometimes we go through the middle," said Schmidt.

"I think if anyone tried to analyse what we do do, there is a lot of variety in what we do, and I think that the times that we've not quite managed to get the result against Wales, we've probably had as much of the game as they have, and we haven't quite been able to put the game away.

"But for me, it's another game of rugby where we get the opportunity to try to get as many of those fine margins to fall in our favour, and I just know the players will work as hard as they can to make sure they do.

"Do we play slightly differently from two years ago? I think anyone who does analysis will say 'yes we do', there are some changes in what we do. I'm obviously not going to explain them."

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