Belfast Telegraph

Friday 21 November 2014

Six Nations: Cian Healy ready to lead Ireland from front

Cian Healy is thrilled to be back in the heat of the action
Cian Healy is thrilled to be back in the heat of the action

For one reason or another Cian Healy has had no shortage of interruptions to his playing in the past 12 months.

Last season saw him cited and duly suspended during the RBS 6 Nations having been found guilty of stamping on England tight-head Dan Cole's leg.

The original suspension would have seen him miss the Scotland and France games, but he won an appeal on a technicality and was able to pack down against Les Bleus as a result.

The Leinster front row forward's 2013 Lions' tour was a bit of a disaster, too, his sojourn in Australia having ended as a result of ankle ligament damage sustained against Western Force.

As recently as December 11 he underwent surgery to rectify syndesmosis in his right ankle following an injury he suffered four days earlier while on Heineken Cup duty against Northampton Saints.

The synopsis was that he would be out for eight weeks, but he proved the medics wrong, returning three weeks ahead of schedule.

"I came back quick, it worked out well. I wasn't too happy sitting around doing nothing," Healy said. He revealed that he had always felt the prognosis was unduly pessimistic and set himself the goal of being back for Leinster's final Heineken Cup pool-stage match with the Ospreys.

Asked what he had been able to do to hasten his recovery, he replied: "You can do bits, keep it moving and everything."

The initial fear that he might miss the start of the Six Nations served to sharpen his appetite. "It gave me a nice hunger coming back into it," he said. "I'd a few games to catch up the fitness and I got flogged as well in training before that! Fitness is at a decent place and I'm going in quite fresh so I'm in a happy enough place."

Further Reading

Six Nations: Ireland could call on Ulstermen

Scotland's Tim Swinson undaunted by Ireland challenge

Six Nations: Ireland's replacement props putting the pressure on

Six Nations: Davis warns that rolling double six will be tough for Ireland

Six Nations: New look U-20 side aim to rock the Scots 

As well as being happy with his fitness, 26-year-old Healy is feeling good about Ireland's preparations, too. Call it the Schmidt Factor, in which he, as a Leinster player, is well versed.

"There's just such a good level of clarity with everything we're doing. Everyone knows what we're supposed to do and where we're supposed to be and training has gone quite well. It's a nice place to be in," he said.

And the new law on scrummaging is something he has embraced.

"I like the new law," Healy smiled. "It takes the heavier prop out of the game and works better for the more powerful. I've been working on it and using parts of it to my ability."

Against Scotland on Sunday afternoon he knows Ireland must front up.

"They're usually very tough," he said. "It's a forward game really and they'd be tough scrummagers and really put it out there. Line-out as well, you really get it put to you. So I expect a fairly heavy challenge in the front five and that to be the gruelling part of the game.

"Hopefully we'll free up a bit of stuff for our outside fellas."

He is under pressure in another area, too, with Jack McGrath turning the heat up on the loose-head side. And with Martin Moore coming through at three, Healy and Mike Ross know there are eager youngsters hoping to take their Leinster and Ireland jerseys.

"The boys have been plugging away for a lot longer than they've been noticed and it's been a case of getting opportunities and taking them and they've done it very well," Healy said.

"Those opportunities came in European games and Irish games so when they got the chance to do that they really stood up and showed what they are capable of. There's plenty of talent going around like that, waiting for opportunities, so it's always there and keeps you on your toes."

As with Brian O'Driscoll and Robbie Henshaw's relationship, Healy is willing to share what he knows with his junior partner McGrath.

"We work well together, we're in the gym an awful lot together and on the pitch together working things out, and if we didn't know calls we'd bounce off each other to find out what we're supposed to be doing.We have worked with good unity there," he said.

The season has reached a stage Healy enjoys a lot. "I always look forward to Six Nations, you know? It's the same as any competition. When the Heineken Cup comes around and Six Nations and autumn internationals, it's just a different buzz that you feed off," he added.

"It breaks up a season and gives you a chance to play with different players, with everyone coming in from the provinces and from abroad and everything, it's a great, fresh thing. It gives your rugby an enjoyable lift and the thought of playing at the top, top level around is a big drive for all the lads."

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