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Japan defeat is 'still burning' with Ireland squad at Rugby World Cup, says Healy


Taken down: Cian Healy finds no way through during the loss to Japan
Taken down: Cian Healy finds no way through during the loss to Japan
Cian Healy talking to the media
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

While the nature of the performance wasn't exactly the hoped for palette cleanser, Ireland's short turnaround ahead of playing Russia last week offered Joe Schmidt and his side an opportunity to quickly shift the focus from the loss to Japan onto the next task at hand.

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The stuttering third quarter answered few critics but the five points picked up in the Kobe Misaki Stadium ensured at least that the squad were able to enjoy some down time this weekend with their quarter-final spot still very much in their own hands.

With New Zealand or South Africa lying in wait, the path to a first ever semi-final has not altered greatly in degree of difficulty off the back of the Brave Blossoms' unforgettable win but, for some players, the sting of the reverse has lingered that little bit longer.

Rory Best, Chris Farrell, Jacob Stockdale, James Ryan, Josh van der Flier, Joey Carbery and Cian Healy all still have the shock in Shizuoka as the last entry on their personal ledgers and, when most of that group were presented to the media while their team-mates focused on recovery from their exertions of Thursday night, there was a common theme throughout.

"It's still burning with me a bit," admitted Healy of the side's first pool loss since 2007, a game in which he was the first man called ashore in the 45th minute and the scrum struggled.

"I've kind of pushed myself through a good bit of extra work because I wasn't happy with how I went there.

"I wasn't happy with how my lungs were burning there so I've had a few extra fitness sessions and the video work as well.

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"We had a pretty tough schedule with fitness and weights and video work and preparation. When you're not in the 23 you kind of have to be extra screwed on just in case something happens, so it was kind of business as usual.

"You can only do so much on the pitch without wrecking yourself, so I've put a good bit into the analysis side of it going forward and it's just something I don't want to happen again.

"In the past a blip like that is something that's sent us out of a competition, so I suppose in one way it's lucky that it wasn't a quarter-final that it showed up in and it's an opportunity for us to push on and have a good performance this week, and then knock on again and keep going."

Sure to come back into the match day panel when Ireland are back in action against Samoa on Saturday, when confined to a watching brief for the 35-0 win over the lowest-ranked side in the tournament, Healy felt sympathy for team-mates who, in a game that could be seen as something of a lose-lose scenario, found themselves playing in humidity that has led to a sharp upturn in handling errors in all games at the domed stadium.

"I thought it was pretty good," he said. "Those conditions were disgusting. Even sitting there I thought it was tough. I did the captain's run and the warm-up and I was kind of feeling for them going out into that.

"But same thing, everyone's playing in the same conditions. So as expected there were a lot of handling errors, a lot more scrums. I was on scrum cam so that was plenty more work for me. I haven't seen any negativity. I block or ignore anything that comes like that.

"So no, I'm happy, the lads are pretty happy, we got through a lot of work and we got what we wanted from the game.

"There's definitely stuff to work on but we got what we wanted from the game, we got the extra point and we'll march on now."

Ireland conclude their pool knowing that another bonus-point win ensures a quarter-final spot, while also maintaining hopes of securing top spot - and an extra day of rest before a quarter-final - depending on the result of Japan's clash with Scotland the next day.

After some error-strewn showings in testing conditions, an upturn in fluidity will be required if the side are to hit their stride in time for the knockouts, with players having acknowledged that too often mistakes are being piggybacked onto mistakes and creating something of an unwanted circle.

"It's definitely in there," acknowledged Healy. "It's a difficult thing to do but it's like when you get that flow, it's pretty natural.

"You probably over-try if there's a penalty kick to a lineout maul, if you go extra hard in that you could cause another penalty so it's just kinda sticking to what we would drill ourselves on and everyone staying on the same page, not trying to be a maverick and fix anything themselves.

"We work hard on that, we train like that so it's just a case of putting it into games now."

For a World Cup that has promised so much, it's getting close to now or never.

Belfast Telegraph


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