Cian Healy sets his sights on Six Nations return
Cian Healy is hoping to return in time for Ireland's Six Nations campaign as the prop patiently works his way back to fitness.
Had things been different, the Leinster star would have spent yesterday preparing for the Springboks but instead he was back in bed, promoting the wares of King Koil in what the marketing types would describe as 'synergy'.
Doctors have urged him not to do too much too soon after tearing his hamstring off the bone in a freak training injury in September.
"I was a week or two ahead of schedule but I've been told I have to stick to protocol because the tendon re-attaching and stuff takes time," he said.
"I'm trying to avoid getting that false sense of security so everything is quite cautious.
"The surgeon said I'll probably be able to run at the end of December, from that it's just how quickly I can make it back and hopefully make it into contention for the Six Nations."
The injury, when it came, was as unexpected as it was painful and Healy knew it wasn't good, describing it as the worst injury of his career to date.
"I just broke off the back of a maul and I was in open space for a bit of a run and I caught my heel in the ground and my knee locked out and my body went over the top of it," he recalled. "I just extended the whole back of my leg and folded over it so it just popped out of the back. It was miserable enough pain.
"I thought I was after pulling my hip out of place because it was a big hit. Jamie (Heaslip) was slagging me about the shriek I left out. It was a pretty bad one.
"The kind of timeframe didn't creep in until I was talking to (Richardt) Straussy and he was telling me how long it took him to get back and how it's not really possible to go too far ahead of what they say so that was a bit of a killer."
Surgery was required and it doesn't sound pleasant.
"They cut at the bottom of your a*** and the top of your hamstring. It was a small scar, a four or five inch cut," he said.
"I gather there are pins in the hip or in the pelvis and threads at the end of them. That's what the hamstring is reattached to. Knowing that tells me a little bit more about how cautious I have to be because it's literally hanging on by a thread."
Healy admits that missing out on the Ireland camp has been difficult as much for the off-field activity as the prospect of missing South Africa.
"That's killing me," he said. "I had (Ian) Keatley over recently and he was talking me through the camp.
"It's a bit tortuous that you're training on your own but my mates have been good, calling around or when I wasn't moving much they were bringing me out for dinner so that kind of takes your mind off it."
In his absence, Jack McGrath has thrived at Leinster and has been named in Joe Schmidt's starting XV. Healy knows his rival is a threat.
"Give him a sniff of the jersey and he's a driven enough player who's not going to want to let it go," he said.
"That's going to be one of my big tasks."
He won't be there to help, but Healy reckons McGrath and the rest of the Six Nations winners are in a good place.
"I don't think there's any fear, it's a positive mood," he said.
"So when you're in that mind frame going into a game then you're in a good place."