Cian Healy enjoying being back to fitness and is keeping his feet on the floor
Cian Healy has vowed not to get carried away by the "little devil" telling him he is yet to reach his Test match peak.
Leinster prop Healy is finally over a miserable injury spate that culminated with neck surgery in May 2015, that threatened to end his career.
The 30-year-old tore his hamstring off the bone in September 2014 and underwent ankle surgery the season before that.
Healy admitted it was only this October - some two years on from his neck operation - that he has felt back in his prime, and has talked tentatively about admitting he still feels he can become even better than before.
Asked if he thinks his peak remains in front of him, Healy replied: "Yeah, and it's making me pretty excited alright.
"And it's only in the last while, since the start of October, that I've started to play a bit better and started to get on the ball a bit more, and have a bit more bounce about myself.
"And then there's the little devil on your shoulder telling you 'Jesus, this isn't it, this is going to go up another level again'.
"And so it's exciting but you still have to put a bit of an anchor on it and stick to the routine and stick to what is making that happen.
"But I'm really enjoying my rugby again, so this time has been really positive for me."
Bullocking loosehead prop Healy will start Ireland's final autumn Test in Dublin on Saturday, when Joe Schmidt's men will expect a severe scrummaging onslaught.
Whatever the pressures on the field though, Healy admitted rugby can suddenly become extremely lonely when fighting back from long-term injury.
"You have days in the gym on your own, and even before that when you can't even go into the gym if it's a bad enough injury, when you're parked up at home for two or three weeks," said Healy.
"They are pretty dark days but after one or two of them you know you have to fit a little schedule together.
"With my hamstring I couldn't get out of the house much, so my mates would be coming round to my house for a coffee to help me fill time.
"Then you start to plan your route back.
"But it's never easy being injured, it's usually a lonely enough place.
"It can be miserable if you don't have anyone to lean on.
"But I was lucky enough to have my girlfriend, my mates from Clontarf and mates from school to drop by, even for something as simple as movie night.
"Even in full health it's important to have time with your mates or time with a hobby away from the sport that's not going to further your career, but that's doing something for you.
"That's one of the biggest things that I've taken into the last year."