Monday 18 February 2019

'World-class' Healy can still star for Ireland, insists Cullen

Healy underwent neck surgery in May to repair a disc but was expected to feature during Ireland’s warm-up games
Healy underwent neck surgery in May to repair a disc but was expected to feature during Ireland’s warm-up games
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leo Cullen has backed Cian Healy to play a major role at the World Cup despite not having played in four months.

Healy underwent neck surgery in May to repair a disc but was expected to feature during Ireland's warm-up games.

Given that the 27-year-old is so short on game time, Cullen would welcome him back to the Leinster squad for Friday night's Pro12 game against Cardiff, if the call came from Joe Schmidt.

"Everything is on a case-by-case. He potentially would be helpful to us, if he was available," Cullen said.

"He would have to come back in and train with the group so it is very hard in a professional environment to just turn up on the day of the game without any training. He has got to get used to the calling structures.

"Some guys came back during the lead-in but they were training with us at the start of the week of the Ulster game and the start of the week of the Moseley game as well. They were still in the frame for World Cup selection at that stage.

"Cian is a world-class player. The Irish management have made the call during the Six Nations and we saw what happened there.

Talented

"That is the player he is. He has got special gifts and they (Ireland coaches) were prepared to bring him to the World Cup even though he has not played so far this season, because they, and we, know how talented a player he is.

"We saw during the Six Nations exactly what that looked like and I thought he equipped himself pretty well.

"He hadn't been playing for quite a long time but we went into the Six Nations on the back of having not played. So in theory this would be a pretty similar scenario," Cullen added.

The Leinster coach was also boosted by the fact that Rhys Ruddock is nearing a return following a broken arm suffered on the Emerging Ireland tour during the summer.

Cullen is hopeful that Ruddock will return for the Dragons game on October 3, while new signing Mick Kearney (toe) should also feature.

Meanwhile, Conor Murray is progressing through the Return to Play protocols after he suffered a concussion in Saturday's defeat to England.

Rob Kearney (bruised knee) will do moderated training for the first half of this week and Johnny Sexton and Simon Zebo (both suffered cramp on Saturday) trained fully yesterday.

Having suffered back-to-back defeats, Ireland have dropped to sixth place in the latest IRB World rankings.

Schmidt's side had been in second position at the beginning of August but a disappointing summer series has seen them drop four places.

Irish Independent

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