Friday 24 November 2017

Healy: I won’t lose my head

HOW ironic that the man they call ‘Church’ should be targeted as one of Leinster’s most consistent ‘sinners’, one to be singled out in the heat of battle.

“Yeah, I notice people having a pull off me. Grand. You get on with that. Give them an auld push back the odd time. But, Joe (Schmidt) gives me a bit of a ‘freaker’ for that. So, I have to leave it out,” says Cian Healy.

“Some people think they can target someone and get a rise out of them and put them off their game. But, you have to stick to your own game. And that’s it.

“You gotta’ have a hold on your own discipline before you can expect it from anyone else. If you try and do it week-in, week-out, it will hopefully become a bit more natural.

“If you’re playing loose and not keeping control of yourself, you can’t suddenly switch it on. You’ve got to, kind of, breed it into yourself. That is something we’ve been pretty hard on.”

Glasgow will look to unsettle Leinster, test the scrum, niggle at the breakdown, force errors and capitalise on them at Firhill on Sunday. That was the blueprint for their first day win over Bath in the Heineken Cup.

What about The Warriors’ scrum? “It is standard – pretty strong. Glasgow always have a pretty strong scrum. It is one of those things where we have to focus on ourselves, on what we have to do, on how we are going to stay controlled.

“We gave away three or four penalties at the weekend for breaking the engage call. That is something we will look at. We have to have that fine-tuned going into the game.”

Healy is no longer just the explosive, ‘new kid on the block’ with weight to work on and everything to learn about the basics of propping – in other words, scrummaging – before he can be considered international class.

The former Belvedere loose-head is on a collision course with Wales’ Gethin Jenkins and, maybe, the suspect Harlequins’ scrummager Joe Marler for the number one jersey on the 2013 British & Irish Lions tour to Australia.

He has travelled that far, that quickly, from his Ireland debut against Australia in November 2009. Since then, he has earned 25 caps and two Heineken Cup winner’s medals.

This doesn’t mean he can stroll down ‘easy street’ at his club. Heinke van der Merwe is not a paycheck player. The Springbok has not been content to come to sit on the bench.

Next in the queue, Jack McGrath, 22, has shown steady improvement to start once and appear off the bench five times in the PRO12 this season.

“It is nice and healthy. Myself, Jack, and Heinke have been pushing each other really hard this season,” he says.

“I have been thinking about this recently. When I was less mature, I was thinking: ‘Oh, this is annoying, there is someone else who is good here’.

“Now, I notice it is starting to bring out better things in my game because I am pushing myself more than I thought I had to. In scrummaging, I have been working on new things and bringing out more and more.””

It wasn’t that long ago that Healy was where McGrath is now. He was the young buck on the make. Now, he is an experienced, big-game, international World Cup veteran at just 24 years of age.

“You gotta’ be adaptable for anything really. If there is someone younger coming in, I’ve got to be able to deal with what he has,” adds Healy.

“It was the same with the other way around. When I came in, I had things that lads didn’t really know how to deal with. It has come around full circle.”

The hunter has become the hunted. It will only make him better.

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