herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Question marks hang over Heaslip, O'Brien and Healy

Sean O'Brien arrives for squad training
Sean O'Brien arrives for squad training

Simon Easterby is not sure Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip will make the plane to Rome.

"He, like the others who have question marks over them, has to get through today (Tuesday). He is a pretty impressive healer," said the forwards coach.

"He doesn't get injured much but we have to make sure that we go to Rome with players capable of getting through 80 minutes. We don't want to go there with players who are potential risks in a Test match."

This takes Easterby nicely on to whether the door has been closed on Cian Healy playing some part against Italy in Rome.

Prop Healy had to hit another marker on Monday to take him one step closer to a return to action.

"It was more a strength test for his hamstring and he came through that," said Easterby.

Healy comes into the same category as Seán O'Brien as one of the few Ireland forwards with that X-Factor element that causes immediate concern to opposition ranks.

How do Ireland balance the world-class qualities he brings against what is best for the overall well-being of the individual?

"There's that, but you have to be fair to the other guys who have been playing and you also have to be thinking about the player himself," he said.

environment

"Going into a Test match, he has to prove himself prior to that in a training environment if he can't get a game.

"It's a fair question but you can't answer it until you've ticked off a few boxes."

Afterall, Leinster's Jordi Murphy and Dominic Ryan, Munster's Tommy O'Donnell have shown form and hold fitness in the back row, while the same could be said about Munster loose-head James Cronin with Peter O'Mahony, the most likely to move to number eight, if required.

O'Brien has already taken his first step from a valuable 50 minutes against the English Saxons last Friday night.

"Everyone saw he was pretty keen to get out there and show what he could do. He's got limited time under his belt and we have to make sure he's right to play a Test match."

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