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Saturday 7 December 2019

Healy should be able to face Scots but big problem left to tackle

UNDER HIS OWN STEAM: Cian Healy leaves the pitch without any assistance, despite his hurt ankle. Photo: SPORTSFILE
UNDER HIS OWN STEAM: Cian Healy leaves the pitch without any assistance, despite his hurt ankle. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Ireland will have to rise up, just like Cian Healy, if they are to find themselves in the next month and more.

When the Leinster loose-head was left grimacing in pain on the pristine Twickenham green, one of the worst days threatened to become even worse.

After considered treatment from the Irish medical staff, the veteran front row forward got to his feet and limped from the field with an air of reassurance.

It was in complete contrast to what had gone before with Joey Carbery, when his hands met his head to cover the apparent tears.

Healy has been in the game long enough to know that showing any sign of weakness can be terminal, even when the cause is long lost.

It is just force of habit that Healy can often be seen sprinting to the sheds for half-time, giving the outward impression of being unbothered by 40 minutes of stamina-sapping work.

Coach Joe Schmidt reported how a scan to examine the possibility of a break or fracture to the ankle area was clean.

Healy leaving the field under his own steam reassures that Ireland's pillar of a prop should be there to skittle the Scots on the opening day of the World Cup.

Presumably, Conor Murray will recover from a blow to the head in time for Japan. This is tempered slightly by last season's longer-than-expected road back from a mysterious neck-shoulder problem.

Come to think of it, the scrum-half has rarely looked at his best since then.

He was far from it on Saturday, although the sluggish reactions and re-organisation of those around him had something to do with that.

The notable admission from the coach that there was a miscommunication in the matter of Murray returning to play after a HIA - he passed it - was symptomatic of what went on inside the whitewash.

When Schmidt scans the wreckage of what happened at Twickenham, he will dwell on, and feel disdain for, the tackles missed.

"I didn't expect us to be fully loaded, but we accumulated 34 missed tackles and you just can't do that," he said.

"It is a serious problem. We have got to make sure we can rebound from this.

"But there are so many aspects there. We looked dishevelled out there, to be honest."

Defence coach Andy Farrell will shoulder most of the responsibility for putting it right. A deeper dive into the bare statistics reveal how the ESPN stats make for even worse reading, counting the cost at 38 misses.

Jordan Larmour topped the lot with five, one ahead of Rob Kearney, who had one more than Jacob Stockdale, making a dozen in the back three alone, all three of them missing more than they made, only Murray matching that stain with one miss and no tackle completed.

Captain Rory Best was the most porous of the forwards, allowing four misses out of a total of 14 from the men up front.

The backline accounted for an unacceptable 24 omissions in this area with their lack of resistance from first phase the most worrying aspect of the many malfunctions.

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