Rugby World Cup: Cian Healy relieved to put injury woe in the past
With his six-month injury nightmare finally behind him, Cian Healy admitted to some butterflies on Saturday as he stood on the touchline preparing for his first Ireland outing since the Six Nations.
The man charged with adding ballast to the side's carrying game had been out of action since April following neck surgery that had threatened his participation at a second global showpiece.
With Canada long since beaten, the 28-year-old was brought onto the field on the hour mark alongside Nathan White and Sean Cronin but was feeling more apprehension than usual.
"It didn't feel great, I was a bit more nervous than I thought I was going to be and it was the final whistle that I was happy about," he revealed.
"I would have liked to have got a bit more work done but I'm happy to get off the mark.
"It was a long road of 24/7 with medics and in and out of rehab the whole time, and to get over that first hurdle and have that behind me now is nice.Rugby World Cup: Ulster's Iain Henderson stands out in dream start against Canada, but it's going to get tougher Rugby World Cup: Whole squad must be at their best to stand a chance says Ulster hooker
"Joe (Schmidt) and the lads were just telling me constantly to try and fit in, don't do anything magic, so that was my role, I had to try and fit into what the lads were doing."
He almost marked his return to action with a try, only to drop the ball in the process of grounding the score during what proved to be the last act of the game.
"It would have been nice, but I dropped it," he said with a smile. "I dropped it, but I didn't know if it went forward or not."
For a character as lively as Healy, the inactivity of recent months provided quite the strain.
"It's always a bit of a struggle, not playing for a while and then being on rehab for the whole summer, but I stuck to what the medical people said, they've seen it all before, so I was doing what I was told and plugging away, trying to be as patient as possible," reflected the Clontarf man.
"That was one of the hardest things. I wanted to kick on and start training and scrummaging and stuff, but I just came back and came back and I was told, 'not yet', and they really looked after me until I had the right strength built up in the muscles again to be able to do that.
"I'm feeling pretty fit, I've done a lot of running over the last while, it's one of the things I have been able to do and they've certainly exploited that.
"So I'm fit on those terms but it's just about working on my sharpness and taking every chance I can to do it."
Whether such a chance will present itself from the start on Sunday against Romania remains to be seen with Healy revealing that there is no set plan for his return to action as of yet.
"It hasn't been said to me, they might have one now," he laughed.
"I'm just training and going about my business, just hoping to get picked and eventually get into a starting role, hopefully.
"I've been around long enough to be able to fit in and know what's going on, it's not totally new to me so it's just about doing that."