Munster out-half Ben Healy. Billy Stickland/INPHO
Master and Apprentice

Healy: Larkham has helped teach me 'to break the rules'

The out-half says Munster’s attack coach has helped him take his game to a new level.

FOR MUCH OF the opening 40 minutes at Thomond Park on Sunday, it was the Ben Healy show as the young out-half delivered a classy display which helped Munster effectively kill their Champions Cup meeting with Wasps long before the half-time whistle was sounded.

It was a perfect response from Healy having missed the trip to Castres a week previously, where in his absence, Jack Crowley stole the headlines on the occasion of his first Champions Cup start.

The two young 10s will of course be keen to play down their budding rivalry, but it’s clear that the talented 22-year-olds are pushing each other on this season. 

“In terms of my own performance, I’m quite stoic about it,” Healy explained, speaking after Munster’s impressive 45-7 defeat of Wasps on Sunday.

“Wherever I am that week, I just need to perform. That (Castres game) was last week. It’s done, it’s gone. No matter how Jack went, it shouldn’t really affect my performance today (against Wasps), if we’re being honest about it.

“I knew what I needed to do today. I knew what I needed to deliver for the team. I thought we definitely did that, but I’ve just got to take it one week at a time.

“Jack is a phenomenal player, we’re definitely pushing each other, but for me it’s one week at a time and all I can do is do what I can in that week.”

While Healy enjoyed a promising campaign in his breakthrough season last year, he has taken his game to a new level this season, despite his momentum being disrupted by the cancellations and postponement that have hit the province over the last two months.

Some of that improvement comes from the growing sense of self-confidence which comes with experience, but he also credits the role of attack coach, Stephen Larkham, who will be part of the exodus of Munster coaches at the end of the season.

The former Wallabies out-half is heading back to Australia to take the head coach job at the Brumbies, where he won two Super Rugby titles during a decorated playing career.

One of the first things I noticed with Steve early on was that he’s not afraid to break the rules in terms of what you are told growing up. Little things, like you are always told to run square or run straight as an out-half for example, whereas he’ll tell you that in different situations you need to be able to drift on the pass, you need to be able to cut under the pass. In terms of passing in wet conditions, he’s got little cues.

“So just little micro things. All the way up along, everyone is taught certain things, but because he’s been there and done that, he knows what works and what doesn’t work, and he knows that sometimes you’ve actually got to go against the grain. 

“But that was probably the first thing that struck me with him, and I was able to learn that pretty quickly – that you need to be able to break the rules.

“And on top of that, I can’t say enough about him in terms of developing my game. He’s been absolutely fantastic. Always open to chat, always open to ideas, always giving me ideas. So I’m very grateful for the last few seasons I’ve had with him.”

munsters-ben-healy-is-tackled-by-wasps-tom-cruse Healy is tackled by Wasps Tom Cruse. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Last year Healy was noted for his strong kicking game and ability to land long-range penalties, but this year he feels he is showcasing himself as a more rounded player.

On Sunday he added some lovely touches of flair, producing a smart offload after shipping a heavy blow in the early minutes, and delivering a perfect chip through to tee-up Simon Zebo’s first try of the evening, his variety in attack adding a sense of intent to Munster’s play.

“I think when I broke in last year a lot of it was based around my kicking game,” Healy continued.

Whereas I thought I showed today that my game is progressing in the right way in terms of that more attacking kicking game, in terms of taking the line on myself, offloading, pass variety, that type of stuff.

“That’s probably where my game needs to go and that’s where the next step is for me.”

And if Healy can continue on this upward curve, he’ll surely attract attention from Ireland head coach Andy Farrell.

“I mentioned being stoic earlier. I’ve just got to control what I can control, you know?

“I loved playing out there (against Wasps), it was brilliant, and that’s all I can do at the moment, (Ireland squad) selection is out of my control. Obviously I’m quite ambitious and that’s where I’d like to get to, but I can’t control that so I can’t really focus on it.

“All I can focus on is performing week in, week out when I get the opportunity. And I’ve been happy with what I’ve been doing this season, but we’ll let the chips fall as they may.

“All I can do is keep doing what I am doing.” 

- Originally published at 6:45am

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