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Healy relieved to receive reprieve for tussle with French

By Niall Crozier

Had Cian Healy served the suspension originally imposed on him for stamping on England prop Dan Cole in the rivals' February 10 battle, he would be watching Saturday's Ireland v France RBS 6Nations Championship game rather than playing in it.

A successful appeal changed that, however, with the Irish loose-head's case – that the ban effectively was of four weeks duration rather than three – having been upheld. Thus on Saturday he, Ulster's Rory Best and Leinster team-mate Mike Ross will pack down opposite France's Thomas Domingo, Benjamin Kayser and Nicolas Mas. No place for the faint-hearted in there.

"We weren't sure. We were hoping. We were just going to try our best," is the 25-year-old's recollection of the pre-appeal hearing mood. His version of that stamp on Cole's leg is that he did not realise there was an issue at the time.

"I wasn't aware there was something wrong until I checked the phone and there were a lot of heavy messages on it," he said.

"It was bad. I was pretty gutted looking over it because it wouldn't be how I play. It was just a case of not doing what I meant to do right and that can result on being off-fire and not very professional."

In the wake of the incident he admitted to having received "a pretty violent letter" which was sent to him at the Irish camp. It did not take him too long to realise that it was hate mail. Healy admitted that the whole episode had been difficult.

"I'd back myself to be a hard, physical player and pretty annoying to play against, but when people are saying 'dirty' to me and all that I was pretty kind of shaken by it. It can take you down a few pegs."

His explanation of the actual incident was: "I went to do something and just didn't do it correctly. It misfired completely. I deserved to get sanctioned from it, so now I'll move on from it and try and put it behind me."

At this stage he has not been in contact with Cole to apologise.

"I still haven't spoken to him," he said, adding: "It would be nice to talk to him in the summer!"

Although that was an a reference to the Australia-bound Lions squad in which both hope to feature, it was noticeable that when pressed on those ambitions, Healy's measured response was: "I've got a lot of games left in me this season and I'll back myself to keep performing to a good level. If something comes off the back of that it does, if it doesn't it doesn't."

He has faced French opponents often enough to know that Saturday's match will be no less intense than last month's war of attrition with England.

Mas, 32, is 5ft 11in and 17st of Perpignan tight-head of whom Healy said: "He's good. He's a tough character and he'll work you hard enough."

Healy has the edge physically, though, and tellingly he added: "I do find the bigger, physical props tougher. It's easier to push a smaller fella than a bigger fella."

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