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Healy hungry to make his mark for Leinster as Six Nations comes into focus

The prop gets his chance in the south of France tonight.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

BETWEEN FORM AND fitness, it has been a frustrating time of late for Cian Healy but the Leinster prop is determined to seize his opportunity tonight and lay down a marker ahead of the Six Nations.

The 29-year-old prop has fallen behind Jack McGrath in the pecking order at provincial level this season but will start Leinster’s final Champions Cup pool game against Castres later [Sky Sports 2, 7.45pm].

Healy came off the bench to score a try in the demolition of Montpellier last week and made a good impression during a second-half cameo at the RDS.

With competition intense and the Six Nations fast approaching, Healy knows he needs to perform well and remind everyone of his credentials as one of the best looseheads in the business.

“Delighted to start,” he said before the team’s departure to France.

“It’s a good battle we’re having myself and Jack and he’s playing so well. I’ve had to sit behind and do my best and train as hard as I can so to get the opportunity to start is big.

“I’m just trying to take every opportunity that’s been given. I think the Munster game a while back, I performed poorly on the discipline front, and that was itching away at me a bit.

“You can’t afford to do that when you’re given the opportunities. Apart from that, it’s been edging away in the right direction I think.”

Luke McGrath and Cian Healy Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Was it a result of trying too hard when the opportunity presented itself?

“I was fairly high strung going into that game, yeah,” he replies.

“Silly sort of penalties like that I think is trying to push a bit too far, and not really playing naturally. So I’ll try and do that (play naturally) and be as relaxed as possible.

“It used to be about just keeping things basic, but now there’s a lot more things like fitness and tackles and all that. So you need to be doing everything else. But I think when I take the stress off myself it’s a lot better preparation for a game.”

Healy has scored two tries in his last two appearances and he’s certainly returning to return to something approaching top form at the most opportune time of the season.

As he sat in Leinster’s UCD headquarters yesterday, there was a steely determination about him. Actions, of course, speak louder than words but with Leo Cullen by his side, he knows tonight represents a big chance for him to make a statement.

And there’s no better place to prove yourself as a loosehead than in the south of France.

“Anywhere now we’re going we’re not going to have as difficult a task as we have on the paddock out the back here,” the Ireland international continued.

“There’s lads here going for Leinster and national jerseys against each other and the level the scrum sessions get to is worse than in most games so I think Fogs (John Fogarty) has us prepared pretty well with what we’ve been doing and how hard we’ve been going against each other, pushing or limiting how much we do to look after us.”

It’s not just at loosehead where competition is fierce and it is that strength in depth which has contributed to Leinster’s success this season.

Cullen is the man tasked with making those difficult selection calls, although Healy didn’t want him to go into too much detail about them when he was present at yesterday’s press conference.

“Don’t ask him that while I’m here,” Healy joked after Cullen was asked about the difficulty of choosing between the pair.

Cian Healy Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“Every week there’s someone annoyed with me anyway,” Cullen offered. “But yeah, it’s similar to a lot of positions at the moment. It’s a tough conversation with a lot of guys because they all want to play, which is great from our end.”

The bigger picture is that a home quarter-final is on the line for Leinster. The province have done the hard work to get through to the knockout stages and now they’re determined to finish the job.

“I think it’s about doing ourselves justice here,” Healy added.

“We’ve done well and we’ve played quite well bar a couple of games that didn’t go to plan, but to be able to get out of this section of games pretty happy with what we’ve done, we’d take a win in this game and having a good defensive effort and putting together some of our plays pretty well.

“So not to just scrape a win, (but) to win the way we want to and to win playing the rugby we want to.”

Castres:

15. Pierre Berard
14. Julien Caminati
13. Afusipa Taumoepeau
12. Florian Vialelle
11. David Smith
10. Julien Dumora
9. Antoine Dupont

1. Antoine Tichit
2. Brice Mach
3. Daniel Kotze
4. Victor Moreaux
5. Rodrigo Capo Ortega
6. Yannick Caballero
7. Alexandre Bias
8. Steve Mafi

Replacements:

16. Jody Jenneker
17. Mihaita Lazar
18. Damien Tussac
19. Loic Jacquet
20. Anthony Jelonch
21. Julien Seron
22. Benjamin Urdapilleta
23. Thomas Combezou

Leinster:

15. Isa Nacewa
14. Adam Byrne
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Rory O’Loughlin
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Luke McGrath

1. Cian Healy
2. Richardt Strauss
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Ross Molony
5. Devin Toner
6. Jack Conan
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jamie Heaslip

Replacements: 

16. James Tracy
17. Jack McGrath
18. Michael Bent
19. Mike McCarthy
20. Dan Leavy
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Ross Byrne
23. Rob Kearney

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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