Wednesday 21 February 2018

Keen student Healy seeking extra edge in bid to reclaim No 1 shirt

Cian Healy has made the most of his time on the injured list by studying his weaknesses in the video analysis room
Cian Healy has made the most of his time on the injured list by studying his weaknesses in the video analysis room
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

After a week spent in the serene surrounds of St George's Park, the Ireland squad will today up camp and rejoin to the World Cup party in London.

It's been a rather quiet few days at the English FA's national football centre, which is very much isolated, deep in the Staffordshire countryside.

In Joe Schmidt's eyes, it's exactly what the team needed. On the training paddock, the word is that the sessions have been intense while off it, the analysis work has been as scrupulous as ever.

However, the squad were granted a rare day off yesterday, and the majority took the opportunity to break free of the confines of St George's Park.

For Cian Healy, though, it was another chance to catch up on some of the things that he has missed out on over the last five months - 'studying' as he nicely puts it.

Having made his return from a neck injury in the win against Canada last week, Healy is desperate to get more game-time under his belt in a bid to usurp his Leinster team-mate Jack McGrath in the pecking order.

Unscathed

Healy came through his 20-minute cameo unscathed and, as a result, the intensity of his training schedule this week was taken up a notch - as was his workload off it.

"I have to get all my lineouts and stuff sorted. Having been away from playing for so long, it's one of the things I have to have nailed on, so I'm spending all my extra time on the computers," he explains.

"I've had to pick up on it an awful lot more than I used to. It's kind of become a place in my game over the last two seasons.

"A lot of it is the system that I'm used to. It's just triggers and all the stuff to get up to speed on and have my reaction speeds up.

"So today I was trying to get in for a couple more than usual, trying to get through a few reps. Doing it is an awful lot easier than sitting at a computer looking at it.

"I go back and forward. I can't do 50 minutes or an hour sitting at a computer. It's mind-numbing.

"I'll go in and do 20 minutes, then come back again and do 20 minutes. It keeps it ticking over.

"It makes it a lot fresher and makes you want to do it.

"I've been writing a little bit of stuff in the diary and that's partly to train my hand, to train the smaller muscles. Writing has been one of the things that helps. It's quite an easy way to train.

"I'm feeling pretty good. I've got a lot of running under my belt. There was a lot of heavy scrums in training (on Wednesday) and more running and that's the type of stuff I need to be doing as much of as possible. I've promised to run myself into the ground at training."

Ireland are likely to face an understrength Romanian side at Wembley on Sunday but their opponents will still target the scrum.

It's something for which Schmidt and his coaching staff will be prepared and it's not a prospect that they will fear in the slightest, given how much of a weapon Ireland's scrum has become in recent years.

"It has been like that for a while," Healy stresses. "We have worked hard on it for a couple of years now. It is something that we can use to our advantage when everyone is switched on.

"We work very hard on our system. We trust our system. We don't flog ourselves. We train for excellence in our set-up and stuff and when we get that we are happy with it."

The news that Kevin McLaughlin was unfortunately forced to call time on his career due to concussion this week certainly impacted the Irish players in camp, and especially the Leinster contingent.

Lengthy injuries have meant that Healy himself has faced some dark days over the last two years and McLaughlin's retirement is yet another stark reminder of the increased risk in the sport.

"I was pretty gutted to hear that," the loosehead prop says.

"It's heart-breaking to see because he has been adding a lot. Getting the captaincy while we were away was a big thing as well.

"But Kev is fairly strong-minded. He will be in a good pace going forward.

"Solid is one word you can put on Kev. We call him the Chopper, he's a master of the chop tackle. Reliable in any position.

"You can't just get up and dust it (concussion) off any more. You just have to look after it, it's drilled into us with tackle technique as well.

"Coaches and everybody else are starting to look at it. (Les) Kissy would be fairly strict on what way you tackle, execution and everything.

"You see players so many times having poor tackle position getting sparked out. That's why if you are doing contract drills you don't do them at 70pc, you do them at full or no contact at all."

Come Sunday afternoon, Healy will be immersed back into the action and he will be hoping that all the studying pays off.

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