Cian Healy has pronounced himself fit and raring to go against the All Blacks on Saturday.
Radical new treatment involving a machine which simultaneously applies ice and pressure has seen his knee heal a lot faster than had been feared.
“Up to a good speed of running and doing some physio work now,” he reveals. He was expecting to complete a full physical session today, confirming his fitness.
The Leinster loosehead’s availability will come as a massive relief to Irish coach Declan Kidney whose front row combinations have struggled to date in the Guinness Series, with both South Africa and Samoa creating numerous problems for them in the scrum.
Healy started against the Springboks alongside Ulster hooker Rory Best and Munster tighthead Tony Buckley. The World Cup holders totally dominated the scrum. And line-out.
Last weekend, when Ireland faced Samoa at the Aviva Stadium, Healy was on the bench with Kidney having opted to start with Tom Court, Sean Cronin and John Hayes at numbers one, two and three respectively.
Healy finally entered after 65 minutes when Hayes was substituted. Court moved to tighthead and for the first time in a match, the scrum looked solid.
But Healy, who has just turned 23 — remarkably young for an international prop — has no wish to dwell on past events.
“We’ve moved on from Saturday,” is his terse response to a question as to how he felt things had gone. Clearly he would rather look forward than back.
He feels Ireland are on the cusp of something big happening in that particular setpiece.
“I think we’re just on a curve where it’s going to turn into a pretty strong scrum. All the platform is laid and everyone’s starting to buy into the way we’re trying to look at going forward.
“It’s just about that final click happening,” says Healy.
He knows Ireland dare not let New Zealand make the sort of start they did against Scotland at Murrayfield last Saturday when they scored 28 points in as many minutes. The All Blacks are far too good to be reeled back in from a position like that. Let them get away and it’s goodnight.
“They’re such a good team that they’re hard to chase when you’re behind. I think the game plan we’re playing — when we pull it off, everything going right and everyone buying into the right lines and stuff — means we’ll get our scores early and we won’t be in a position where we have to chase scores early on.
“It’s pretty crucial that we get a good start.”
He admits that things have not really come off for Ireland of late — at least not in matches. In training, though, everything has been working smoothly. He takes a lot of heart from that.
“This week especially it has been going well. Everything’s been coming off pretty sweet so far, so we hope to carry that on for the rest of the week and into the game,” he says.
Healy hopes the match tempo against the All Blacks is quick.
“A slow brand of rugby is a bit niggly and a bit annoying to play, so it’s good getting out there against teams who really stretch you and push you.
“On a good day we should put it up to them and get the win out of it — if we can stretch them in the same way,” Healy feels.
Revealing that a run of internationals like the current four-in-four-weeks 2010 Guinness Series means players notice changes in themselves he explains: “It keeps adding to your arsenal of what you have in the front row.”
Facing opponents they would not encounter other than on international duty means players have to learn quickly and adapt accordingly. He enjoys that.
“Over the last couple of internationals I’ve learned an awful lot about scrummaging. I’ve been lucky enough to go up against some first-class props and it’s just added to what I know. Hopefully I can take that into big games like this.
“In Magners League we play pretty much the same props and we get used to them, but you’re now coming up against guys you don’t normally play so it’s a great opportunity — great for learning and a good challenge as well,” Healy says.
He dislikes the adjective ‘comfortable’ to describe his adaptation to international front row duty.
“I think once you get comfortable you become complacent and if you’re complacent you get beaten,” he warns.