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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Greg Feek: It's great to have Cian Healy and Jack McGrath fighting it out for the one jersey

Scrum coach delighted to have Healy and McGrath 'going hammer and tongs'

29 September 2015; Ireland's Cian Healy during a gym session at training. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, 2015 Rugby World Cup, Surrey Sports Park, University of Surrey, Guildford, England. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
29 September 2015; Ireland's Cian Healy during a gym session at training. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, 2015 Rugby World Cup, Surrey Sports Park, University of Surrey, Guildford, England. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Jack McGrath speaks to the media during a press conference. 2015 Rugby World Cup, Ireland Rugby Press Conference. St George's Park, Burton-upon-Trent, England. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
29 September 2015; Ireland's Cian Healy during a gym session at training. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, 2015 Rugby World Cup, Surrey Sports Park, University of Surrey, Guildford, England. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Scrum coach Greg Feek always gets rolled out when Italy are in town or in Ireland's headlights in Rome.

This is different. The battleground is neutral on Sunday, although the Irish are expected to dominate in the stands of the Olympic Stadium even more than they are on the field of play.

Coach Joe Schmidt never wastes a chance to talk up the legality of the Irish scrum and how it commits to engaging square-on in line with the rules of the game.

This advertises his confidence in what Ireland have been able to do in this area during his reign.

For Feek, it is a case of quality over quantity. He is not one for giving the front row union 30 lashes of the whip.

"Yeah, I just have a philosophy over the quality of them, making sure the quality of what we do is really good," he said.

"You could do 20 and only have eight good ones. I would rather have seven out of eight. We try to drive ourselves around that philosophy as much as we can.

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"We get more out of it and it saves the players' bodies from playing up."

The contest between the growing, improving Jack McGrath and the explosive, but injury-interrupted Cian Healy is one that is working for Ireland.

They are different and complimentary.

The more traditional traits of McGrath are as a diligent grafter committed to mastering the basics of the set-piece and the dirty work around the ruck and fringes

Quite simply, Healy is a law onto himself because he is a different type of animal with Olympian athleticism, the explosiveness of dynamite and the hidden skills of a footballer at heart.

It has always been his way.

In his younger years, there was always a pull toward the open spaces where his speed and footwork could make an inside centre appear foolish.

The technique and follow through of his long kick forward against Romania was a thing of beauty from a man operating in the ugliest of environments - the front row.

Healy learned the hard way that the very survival of any revered international prop depended on his willingness to delve into the darkest parts of his mind and body and emerge intact and on the front-foot.

"That competition between Cian and Jack, that's always been there," said Feek.

"Both of them respect each other for what they do and I think they've got different strengths.

"Jack's had some consistent form of playing really well, then Cian's come back and he's done really, really well to get back.

"I think, in some ways, part of him is really, really grateful to be playing here right now and I can see the fires starting to burn.

"He wants more, and he wants that jersey back already.

"So it's exciting to have those two going hammer and tongs at each other."

It's never about one man, no matter how super-human his gifts. Or even two. Not when it comes to the Italian scrum.

They have a mentality around this specialist area and it is predicated on an outward expression of their macho intent.

Ireland need McGrath and Healy and the rest of the forward pack at their very best to break new ground at the World Cup. This really starts on Sunday.

"We've laid a good platform," continued Feek.

"Hopefully, we can transfer that into the weekend."

It will be a different kettle of piranhas to that which they have faced in Canada and Romania because Italy could have their talisman back in the one, the only Sergio Parisse.

"We've played them a few times which is probably the big difference.

"They pride themselves on the scrum. You know they are going to go at you there."

The Italian captain still has to pass a fitness test to join his scruffy scrum buddies hooker Leonardo Ghiraldini and Martin Castrogiovanni.

"Parisse, at the back of the scrum, he really leads it, as well as Ghiraldini in the front and Castro obviously."

It will be Ireland's mettle test to withstand the hard men of The Azzurri.

"We know it's going to be a tough, competitive area this week. We need to be dialled in."

 

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