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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Titans seek some festive cheer

Healy can play but there is a catch: case is not closed and will be reheard

Cian Healy
Cian Healy

It boggles the mind and other parts the overlords of European Rugby cannot reach.

Cian Healy's two-week suspension for being found guilty of a charge that was never put to him, namely Law 10.4 (f) Dangerous charging or obstructing or grabbing of an opponent without the ball, including shouldering, has been set aside, therefore releasing the Leinster prop to play immediately.

Happy match days! Right? Wrong!

The four-paragraph statement released yesterday afternoon contained a real sting in the third paragraph of the judgement.

"However, the Appeal Committee also decided that the original citing complaint against the player should be reheard at a later date by a different independent Judicial Officer from the Disciplinary Hearing," it read.

The sword of seriousness has been re-hung above the head of Healy, even though he has already been found not guilty of the act, essentially a contravention of Law 10.4(a) Striking with the knee.

Original

In the original hearing, on Thursday December 17, the Independent Judicial Officer Roger Morris concluded:

"After hearing the submissions and evidence, the Judicial Officer decided that the charge of striking could not be proven."

This smacks of double-jeopardy because someone, somewhere, sitting behind a desk is getting away with murder.

Back to matters pressing, it couldn't get much tighter near the top of the Guinness PRO12 as third-placed Munster hold a one-point lead over Leinster, in fourth, while the latter has a game in hand, albeit away to the champions Glasgow.

Thankfully, Seán O'Brien has been passed fit to play for the first time since coming off against Wasps in November.

No sooner had O'Brien won his battle against an inner ear problem than the IRFU confirmed his three-year contract extension.

The six-week hamstring tear to Mike Ross might even prove to be a blessing in disguise.

For Marty Moore is badly in need of game time to bring his scrummaging up to the same level as his work in the loose.

Then, there is the added value Tadhg Furlong can bring from the start or off the bench.

These two men have the same problem.

They have to start to learn quickly and this is difficult at a province which houses three international tight-heads.

Remarkably, Leinster have made their best ever beginning to the PRO12 League, standing strong on 27 points from their eight rounds played.

The counter argument is that Leinster lost all three away games at fellow Irish provinces last season.

It was the first time it had happened since the season in 2003/04.

More recently, Munster executed the double over their eastern rivals last season, something that had not happened since 2008/09.

Whatever way you spin it, there are 40 shades of intrigue and interest about this one.

Leinster were much better but not good enough against Toulon in The Champions Cup.

The same went for Munster on their travels to Leicester Tigers.

Leinster have amassed a miserable two points from four rounds; Munster five from three. In essence, it leaves both provinces fighting on one front.

The main interest here is over which can best mount a campaign to regain mastery of the PRO12.

Munster have lost their last two matches in the league since beating Edinburgh at Murrayfield in the first week in November.

The home loss to Connacht ended a seven-game winning league run at Thomond Park. More worrying was the lack of urgency or fluency.

Munster have been plagued by inconsistency to drop their last four matches, two in Europe and two in the PRO12.

"It's something that's in my head the whole time. It's not something that we want to have," said coach Anthony Foley.

"It's not something that we are trying to do. We are doing everything in our power to turn it around.

"Unfortunately, it has slipped that way at the moment."

It remains to be seen whether scrum-half Conor Murray can recover from a hip pointer problem that forced his removal against Leicester at Welford Road.

The uncertainty over the Ireland half-back's fitness to practice and the ongoing issues with the 'put-upon' Ian Keatley's erratic form brings elements of doubt to the pivotal positions.

Former New Zealand U20 out-half World Cup winner Tyler Bleyendaal's unbelievably frustrating experience at Munster could all change this week.

Although troubled by a tight quad, this could be the perfect moment for his transition from observer to controller-in-chief.

The 25-year-old has played four times this season, starting twice, not once completing 80 minutes.

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