Wednesday 21 February 2018

Ireland will welcome back Cian Healy 'with open arms' if he can prove fitness, says Les Kiss

Ireland's Cian Healy during squad training this week at Carton House. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Cian Healy during squad training this week at Carton House. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Ireland will welcome Cian Healy into the World Cup squad with "open arms" if he beats neck problems in time

Ireland will welcome Cian Healy back with "open arms" if he can beat his neck problems in time for the World Cup, according to Sean O'Brien.

Wrecking-ball prop Healy is frantically battling to be fit in time for selection for Ireland's final 31-man squad, with head coach Joe Schmidt leaving the door open as long as possible.

Ireland must submit their World Cup squad on August 31, and Healy is not yet back into contact training, but O'Brien backed Schmidt for keeping the 27-year-old in his plans.

"He's a quality player and someone with huge power and strength and he'd be a massive addition to the group obviously," said O'Brien.

"So if he does get back he'd be welcomed with open arms."

O'Brien will captain Ireland for the first time in Saturday's Dublin warm-up Test against Scotland, moving to number eight to accommodate debutant Jack Conan at blindside.

The 28-year-old Leinster back-row forward suffered two injury-hit seasons thanks to successive surgeries on the same shoulder, mirroring similar struggles for Healy.

British and Irish Lions prop Healy had hardly recovered from nasty hamstring problems when his neck injury struck, and O'Brien offered insight into the frustrations of one setback compounding another.

"Cian is a strong enough minded person to know that injuries are a part of the game, and it is a difficult place to be, injuries backing up one after another," he said.

"But as a professional rugby player... that's life.

"He's done very well over the past number of months with rehab and he's making good progress, so he's fighting to be back as soon as he can.

"Cian is a chirpy and happy fellow, the majority of times anyway - you don't want to get him mad!

"He's been very positive and he's been working incredibly hard, doing those rehab sessions day-in, day-out, doing fitness sessions on your own, that's a mental struggle as well.

"But he's kicked on and pushed on, and he has himself in good shape."

O'Brien will win his 35th cap on his captaincy debut for Ireland on Saturday, admitting he will realise a lifelong dream in the process.

"I was absolutely delighted to be asked," said O'Brien.

"It's a great honour and something I've probably always wanted to do at some point. I'm very happy.

"It's the same role as always for me: I'll go out and do what I can for the team, being captain is just an added little thing to it.

"It doesn't change anything from my mindset coming into the game."

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