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Friday 24 November 2017

Healy: I want to set myself greater heights

Ireland loose-head prop's new target of being better than ever after his injury hell

Irish prop Cian Healy at Carton House yesterday. Pics: Sportsfile
Irish prop Cian Healy at Carton House yesterday. Pics: Sportsfile

Cian Healy is a man of action. When he hasn't been able to truly show what he can do, all the words in the world have entered into deaf ears.

The psychological strain from a torn hamstring, serious ankle ligament damage and that neck surgery in 2015 de-powered the ultimate power athlete.

There was a time when he considered retirement, such was the frustration at not getting a grip on everything.

Would he ever be the same again?

There were signs in the latter half of last season that Healy could get it all back.

Reboot

Ireland's tour to the United States and Japan turned out to be the perfect settings to reboot his confidence in his condition.

"I came out of the Japan tour with a pretty positive feeling about where I'm at and how I was playing," he said.

"It's probably the first summer in a long time where I've wanted to train, keep on top of it, stay fit and look after myself.

"Sitting around for three or four days, I thought, 'I need to train again'. That was a positive," he stated.

Healy has taken his work home with him, diving into a new attitude of nutrition and pilates in an overall approach to what he calls his "general well-being".

This involved wasting some of the muscle he had built up to construct 125 kilos of mostly muscle, close to 20stones in old money.

He has shaved down to 114 kilos, or just over 17 1/2 stones, to get back to being the man he once was.

Bulldozer

"I decided to take a bit of my weight off, lean-up again, become fast again and not worry about being a a bulldozer - trying to nimble up."

It almost sounds like a love affair with the game that has been rekindled.

"I am on the path to where I want to be. I wouldn't say I'm quite there yet."

It is a long time since Healy has been selected to start a Grade-A international on merit.

In fact, he would have to cast his mind back to the 2015 World Cup when France and Argentina stood in the way of a man playing on little more than reputation.

He was operating on one arm just five months after a career-threatening surgery that severely reduced the feeling in his hand.

From this point on, he played in the slipstream of Jack McGrath.

Fast-forward, the power has returned and Healy has held off the improved challenge from Dave Kilcoyne to start tomorrow against South Africa in the Aviva Stadium (5.30).

While McGrath has been a victim of an injury from his last game for Leinster, there has been strong speculation about Healy's return on merit.

He doesn't want to stop here.

"I've had a target of getting back to being a top prop. But, it's not a target of being back where I was.

"It's being the top. I don't have a roof set on that. It's not to be a better prop than Jack (McGrath) or 'Killer' (Kilcoyne).

"It's to break everything I have before and try to reach new heights."

The physical test doesn't get any bigger or bulkier than South Africa.

"It is fairly huge, yeah. I've eyed it up for a while," enthused Healy.

The affirmation from Joe Schmidt that he looks as good to the coach as he feels inside is another step back up the ladder he once viewed from the highest rung.

Positive

"It more so just resets what you've been doing and helps you continue through doing that.

"It is positive reinforcement, I suppose," he said.

"Like, I've put a lot of work in outside training and at home, when I'm on my own. That can go unnoticed.

"When getting picked comes around, it's a good nudge to say 'you're doing the right thing and the hours are worth it'."

The one hour of action Healy will get against the Springboks can't come quickly enough.

"We've trained hard and we've went at each other.

"Physically, anyone can bring anything to us and I don't think we'll have too much of a problem," concluded Healy.

Ireland: R Kearney; A Conway, R Henshaw, B Aki, J Stockdale; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best (capt), T Furlong, I Henderson, D Toner, P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, CJ Stander. Replacements: R Herring, D Kilcoyne, John Ryan, James Ryan, R Ruddock; K Marmion, J Carbery, D Sweetnam.

South Africa: A Coetzee; D Leyds, J Kriel, D de Allende, C Skosan; E Jantjies, R Cronje; T Mtawarira, M Marx, C Oosthuizen, E Etzebeth (capt), L de Jager, S Kolisi, PS du Toit, F Louw. Replacements: B Mbonambi, S Kitshoff, W Louw, F Mostert, U Cassiem; R Paige, H Pollard, F Venter.

Verdict: Ireland

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