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Cian Healy happy to meet challengers in competitive Leinster squad

‘They want to knock the old boy off the top’.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CIAN HEALY IS showing no sign of slowing down or letting up.

And yet at 32, he is most certainly there to be shot at by all the bright young things arriving into the Leinster squad eager to make their mark.

From his own positional rivals in Peter Dooley and Ed Byrne, to those who crouch opposite to test him in training set-pieces: Andrew Porter, Jack Aungier and Roman Salanoa. The big boys.

The Ringer’s Brian Philips once wrote about Kobe Bryant in this sort of situation, characterising him as the pack leader in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The wolf on the rock.

Akela is strong and cunning. But he knows that one day he must lose his strength and that when that happens, the young wolves will challenge him and pull him down and kill him.”

For Healy, the cunning and strength remains but his new rivals come pre-loaded with all the good habits needed to execute in a scrum.

“Technique, I probably threw it out the window when I was younger. They are probably a lot further on technically than I was at their age,” says the loosehead.

“I put myself in as a challenger for any of the young props coming in, test them, and they are out to test us.

“They want to knock the old boy off the top. It’s lovely – great challenges.”

Healy will keep hold of top spot, the coveted number 1 jersey, for Sunday’s meeting with Lyon at the RDS. The match will be an opportunity for this group to match the province’s previous best start to the season. Their current 14-match 100% record is borne out of an intense competition for places. When anyone within Leinster speaks of the subject there is usually a reference made to the large team meetings.

cian-healy Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The young and yet-to-be-capped are encouraged to see themselves on an equal footing, to stand up and offer a critique or a point of view with every bit as much weight as the veterans and internationals. It’s welcomed and commended because this is a team with an open and positive environment. Yeah, but come on.

Nobody likes to be called out by a kid not long out of school. Do you not take pride in turning them upside down in live scrummaging?

“I fucking love it when that happens,” says Healy, his tone still even.

“When lads are coming in and calling people out in meetings, as long as they’re somewhat along the line of right, putting their actions where their chat is (then fine).

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“We don’t have anyone that gets all vocal in a meeting and goes silent on the pitch. That would be the worst case.

“If you are voicing yourself in a meeting and you’re putting action (behind) it on the pitch, regardless of your age, it is respected.”

And every session on the field is a chance to tighten the grip on that respect, or feel it loosen.

“When you show up here to train and work, you are expected to be on. You don’t coast into training and take it easy on a Monday.

“You go in and attack every week. That’s what we want. We’re looking to put in the best performances and take as many points as we can from games and make memorable occasions.

“You have to be on for every single minute you are in this building.”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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