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Top rugby stars aren't putting health at risk, insists Healy

By David Kelly

It didn't take long for the gags to come running.

How could Leinster possibly aspire to win both the Six Nations and the Heineken Cup in the same season?

Tiredness was one of the reasons ascribed to Leinster's dismal defeat in Toulon last weekend, but Gordon D'Arcy, someone who has spent nearly 15 years engaged in the toil of nine-month seasons for club and country, strongly demurs.

"I don't think so. We had a pretty big game the week before and we fronted up well in that and we had a good run into the Toulon game."

Cian Healy agrees. "No, I had two weeks off after the Six Nations," he drawls. "I managed to rest the body and get the hunger up again."

Nevertheless, even within the cosseted, Union-run Irish game, where players are predominantly protected from over-exposure compared to the privately-owned clubs in England and France, there are growing fears that the increased physical demands on players could be taking its toll.

Healy, who has virtually been playing on one ankle for months now, was asked whether he fancies trudging halfway up the Pampas for two, ahem, gentle summer Tests in Argentina.

"If I'm picked, I'll go," he stoutly declares. "I'm ready for any call."

Some may call this the bravery of a proud Irishman, others may call it folly. We will never know the dangers to which some Irish players have exposed their bodies this season. Which, given what we do know, is a frightening thought.

Players have struggled through games with bad injuries. Rory Best played on with a broken wrist. Dan Tuohy played on with a broken forearm. Paul O'Connell played on with a broken arm (on the Lions tour, admittedly). Peter O'Mahony played on with a dislocated shoulder.

There have been countless concussions and only last weekend Andrew Trimble made a tackle, despite having received a concussive knock.

There may well be countless other instances where players have suffered injury and persisted through a game, but any player will tell you that nobody plays at 100 per cent fitness.

Healy refutes suggestions that the increased physicality of the game and workload for its leading characters should be a serious topic for debate.

"No, I don't think so," he says. "If the hunger is there, the respect for your body is there and if you're looking after it all, it's not a hard thing to do.

"If you're eating right, treating your weekends right, it's a fairly handy week."

As far as Healy is concerned, it is up to players themselves to decide whether they need to rest or otherwise.

"It's an individual thing with different players," he says.

"If someone is feeling tired, they'll tell you and they'll get their time off. Around this time, management can look at things and give guys a weekend off. I've been given my time off. I feel good going into the rest of the season."

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