Thursday 23 November 2017

Healy more ready than Ross for Ireland step-up as Leinster give Cardiff the Blues

Leinster's Isa Nacewa runs in to score his sides first try of the match Cardiff. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Leinster's Isa Nacewa runs in to score his sides first try of the match Cardiff. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Leinster’s Cian Healy

It would have put a smile on the face of Ireland coach Joe Schmidt and his scrum guru Greg Feek to witness the return to form of prop Cian Healy.

The Ireland loose-head surely nailed down a place on the bench, in behind Jack McGrath, at Twickenham with 'a tour de force' over 67 minutes in Leinster's vital 14-13 win against Cardiff Blues in the PRO12 League on Saturday.

Okay, the Welsh club is not exactly a scrummaging powerhouse, an area in which they were battered and bruised by Leinster.

However, it was the work outside the scrum that revealed something of a vintage Healy impact.

The evidence on Mike Ross was not as clear cut.

The 36 minutes of game time produced some powerful scrummaging, even though the tight-head looked some way short of full fitness once out in open country.

Schmidt and Feek have a decision to make over whether or not to favour Ross's lockdown scrum experience over the learning curve Tadhg Furlong is climbing.

The odds favour a recall for Ross, probably as second choice to Nathan White.

Leinster scaled the summit of the League for the first time in 18 months.

They stayed there for less than two hours before being overhauled by Connacht's bonus-point win at Zebre.

Man of the Match Jack Conan pointed to discipline in defence, especially late on, as Cardiff laid siege to Leinster's half, if not quite their line.

"Beforehand, we saw them knocking over the points from very far out," he said.

"We knew we really had to be tight and solid and give them easy access into the game."

Indeed, it was Conan's exploitation of Cardiff's non-existent short-side defence at a ruck that made way for Isa Nacewa's seventh try of the season to equal his previous best in 2010/2011.

"Our defensive effort at the end showed how much we were up for it, how much we really wanted it," said Conan.

The decision to bring back defence coach Kurt McQuilkin from New Zealand has paid handsome dividends.

Leinster have leaked fourteen tries in fourteen rounds and 160 points overall to hold the best tries and points against totals in the PRO12.

This has led to the positive knock-on effect of the least number of losses (3) in what is a super-competitive League this season.

"A lot of it is state of mind," said Conan.

"It is a lot about hunger, how much you want it.

"The lads showed a lot of grit and toughness out there to hold them out in that dying few minutes when we were against the wall."

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