Ben Healy chats with JJ Hanrahan during Munster training. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
The42 Rugby Weekly

'I think the example of someone having gone away and it not really helping him is JJ'

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey discuss Ben Healy’s future on The42 Rugby Weekly.

THURSDSAY’S RUGBY WEEKLY was as stacked with topics of conversation as Breffni’s gaff in Japan was with lads.

Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella joined Gavan Casey with Georgia still on their minds as Ireland turned their attention towards what has circumstantially become the most important fixture of Andy Farrell’s year-long reign, against Scotland in Dublin tomorrow.

The Georgia and Scotland fixtures were reviewed and previewed in typical detail, but there was plenty more for Jackman, Kinsella and Casey to discuss, including the racism storm involving now-reinstated Argentina captain Pablo Matera which has left the sport with a black eye, Johnny Sexton’s future in the green jersey which sparked some debate between Bernard and Gavan, the onus on David Nucifora to improve Ireland’s succession planning positions aside from out-half, and Fiji’s end-of-year return to the field.

All of it can be listened to for free wherever you get your podcasts (just search for ‘The42 Rugby Weekly‘), and so too can another angle explored by the three lads — this a follow-up to news broken by Murray during the week that Glasgow Warriors have made a significant offer to young Munster 10 Ben Healy with the added incentive of ostensibly promising him international rugby with Scotland.

The fact that Nucifora confirmed midweek that the Irish provinces are temporarily unable to offer new contracts left plenty of Munster fans feeling uncomfortable as Gregor Townsend and co. looked to lure one of their future stars across the Irish Sea.

Kinsella and Jackman addressed the story during Thursday’s show, with the former beginning: “I would guess — I don’t know — but I would guess that Ben Healy will wait until the IRFU can negotiate contracts again and then see what he’s weighing up.

“You’ve got to consider all options — and you’d think he would consider this [Glasgow offer]. It sounds like a decent option: a two-year contract, senior deal, obviously increasing what he’s earning, and potential international rugby with Scotland. But obviously, he grew up wanting to play for Munster. He’s doing that now, he’s doing it really well; this month, it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the European games — I feel he’s earned his chance in those games.

“There’s no decision made yet as far as I know. Like, this happens all the time. Players get options. We may not always find out in the media about them.

A pertinent example in this case is John Cooney because Scotland actually tried to get him over before his Ireland debut in 2017 and he kind of spurned them at that stage. But I think now, he probably looks back and wonders. ‘Maybe I should have actually gone. Maybe I’m not appreciated as much in Irish rugby’ as he probably feels he should be.

“I mean, you saw Tommy Seymour,” Kinsella added. “He played underage [U19] rugby with Ireland before and he went off and had a great career in Scotland as well. So, it’s not exactly new but it is kind of jarring for Munster fans that a guy of his quality and potential has such a decent option abroad. I think they’ll be doing everything in their power, once they’re allowed to negotiate, to keep him here.”

ben-healy-jj-hanrahan-and-stephen-larkham Healy and Hanrahan in conversation with Stephen Larkham. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Jackman said: “I don’t think he’ll turn it down willy-nilly but I’d be surprised if he goes.

I don’t think the financial figures at the end of it will be very different; it’s just a case of waiting until January or February [until Munster can offer him a new contract]. I don’t see the SRU or Glasgow throwing a massive figure at him that Munster couldn’t get close to; it’s just a case of being patient.

“If he was someone who wasn’t getting a lot of gametime, I could see it being a lot more attractive. Look, maybe he’s held ambitions of playing for Scotland all his life, but I’d be surprised if it was something he was looking to jump at now.

I think the example of someone having gone away and it not really helping him – and it wasn’t to play for England — is JJ [Hanrahan]. JJ went to Northampton and, in fairness, got a big deal, and possibly felt as though he was being hard done by at Munster, but it didn’t really improve his game to any degree. And I think at the moment, in fairness, you have to give credit to Munster. They do seem to be building something, there’s a batch of young players taking the opportunity during this international window to get the gametime that we’ve been saying they should get. And thankfully, they’ve been shown up to be good players.

“Surely he has the bit between the teeth now”, Jackman added, “he sees how good Munster are compared to the rest of the non-Irish teams in the Pro14. If he can get Champions Cup rugby… I mean, if you’re a Munster man, to play in Thomond Park in a Champions Cup game — that’s a special thing. He would have been on the terrace there, I’m sure, as a kid. And it’s a far bigger club or organisation than Glasgow is, no direspect to Glasgow.

There’s no reason why the Munster CEO couldn’t be having that conversation with Ben, with his agent, saying, ‘Look, we can’t give you a contract today but we value you at ‘X’, and all going well, we’ll honour that.’ And that would give him some security.

“The thing is, he’s probably not on huge money anyway and sometimes when you don’t have it, it’s not as big a deal! And it’ll come — it’ll come based on performances. It’ll come if he keeps doing what he’s doing, whether that’s in Ireland or in Scotland.”

ben-healy Ben Healy in action for Munster. Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

“You’d hope he backs himself to push on [at Munster] — the place he’s been striving towards,” added Kinsella. “That red jersey is something he’s been dreaming of coming through at Glenstal, growing up in Tipperary dreaming of playing in that stadium, as Bernard says. And once they get fans back in there, that’s the dream that he’ll be achieving. I think he’s really on that pathway, working all the time, working with someone like Stephen Larkham who can push his skills and work with that excellent kicking ability that he has, that bit of vision he has as well.

Listen, he’s going to have the Scots in his ear telling him, ‘You’re going to be higher up on our rankings internationally.’ Even if you look at what’s happened Adam Hastings, Finn Russell, who are injured at the moment, and then they went with [Duncan] Weir, and now they’re going with [Jaco] van der Valt, so they’ll be telling him he can get on that ladder pretty quickly. So, there’ll be all sorts of things going on, maybe different pulls in different directions, but I think he looks good enough and talented enough to push on and rise up that pecking order in Irish rugby.

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey preview Ireland-Scotland, chat Ben Healy and Johnny Sexton’s futures, and discuss Argentina’s shocking handling of the racism storm involving their captain:

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