Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Healy concentrates on finer details

Ireland's Cian Healy has been working on his scrummaging skills. Photo / Richard Robinson.
Ireland's Cian Healy has been working on his scrummaging skills. Photo / Richard Robinson.

Balance is an all-important ingredient in Cian Healy's kitbag.

He earns his corn on the rugby field but the Irish loosehead prop does not eat, drink, think and sleep his sporting passion.

Healy wields a paintbrush for his abstract painting interests and likes to spin some discs as he indulges in his wide range of musical ideas.

The 24-year-old was also good enough to win a couple of all-Ireland titles in discus and shot and if he had not worked as a loosehead prop, he might have been competing at the Olympics in a few months.

"You never know with a bit of training what might have happened," he said.

But Healy does know that without his variety of pursuits he would not be able to concentrate so strongly on his rugby.

He is in the zone for that, ready for today's test at Eden Park and his personal duel with Owen Franks.

They are two very strong men with vastly different styles and interests.

Healy looks menacingly compact, his 113kg frame encasing coils of muscled concentration and intent. He is only 24, the same as Franks, and already earning serious acclaim as a man up with the global leaders in his craft.

Same with Franks, although he has not been so prominent this season with the Crusaders and without Brad Thorn's power from the second row.

"I think I am happy where I am but it has been a bit of a slow start," Franks said. "It is up to us to set the tone, it all starts in the scrum, that is our main job to get the backs some good pill to play off."

Healy was a very effective opponent and apart from a few scrums, Ireland had one of the technically better scrums in the Six Nations series.

"But Woody and Horey [Tony Woodcock and Andrew Hore] have played a load of tests and Ben [Franks] [has] been there for three or so years getting well into it."

Healy remembered the surface at Eden Park at the World Cup was conducive to scrummaging and hoped conditions were similar today.

He is part of an Irish front row which resembles a low-rise factory, a compact group of men anchored to each other and terra firma.

"We've got a good unit working together, whatever it is, it is going well," Healy said.

Much of his own progress could be attributed to tuition from former All Black Greg Feek, who had worked with him at Leinster and Ireland.

"We have been working on the same things from day one, they are all the little details you want to get right so that come big matches, they are just automatic," Healy said.

"Greg has brought my game on a hell of a lot. He emphasises things like head position and feet placement, bind, things you keep constantly reminding yourself of and want to be there in your psyche."

Now it is up to Healy to prove that in tests and what better opportunity than up against the All Blacks.

Ireland had shown out against the Wallabies at the World Cup when they had stacks of New Zealanders supporting them that day.

"Unfortunately I think the support will be a bit different this time."

Healy and his mates left that tournament feeling empty after losing to Wales but he is not a big man on too much rugby history.

He is not worried that Ireland have never beaten the All Blacks. They have a chance tonight and next week and the week after.

"Whatever happened in games two or 20 years ago does not matter to me. It's what happens this weekend then the next."

- NZ Herald

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