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'You're representing a lot of people when you play for Ireland and defeat hurts'

After a difficult week, Cian Healy is hungry to get Ireland back on track at Murrayfield.

CIAN HEALY IS focused, more so than normal. He’s hurting. You can tell, it’s etched all over his face. He has stared at the ceiling of his Carton House room enough this week, mulling over what went wrong last week and how it can be fixed come kick-off time this afternoon. Ireland need to get it right. 

The 31-year-old was one of few in green to come out of the Aviva Stadium humbling with any sort of credit in the bank, scoring Ireland’s opening try and bringing a resilient physical presence in the face of an English onslaught.

Cian Healy Healy pictured at Carton House this week. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

But that mattered little. Defeat hurts, just as much now as it did 10 years ago. It stings, and the pain lingers. Thankfully there’s an opportunity to steer it back on track this afternoon at Murrayfield, but there have been sleepless nights this past week. Ireland need a response. 

Joe Schmidt’s stinging post-match words — bullied, manhandled, dominated — have left their mark, particularly on the tight five. Harsh words designed to hit home. To incite a greater edge, a greater intensity and a big performance. 

“You never get past that [hurt],” Healy says. “You’re representing a lot of people when you play for Ireland and that hurts. I’d struggle to sleep after a game, win or lose, so I suppose it’s just the thoughts that go through your head — they’re a little bit worse when you’re staring at the ceiling.

“But I have to park it. I’ll get my stuff from it but you hurt from it longer than you think about it. It’s just about building a response to it. You can’t lose and not have a response. It’s the making of how we do it, if you get beaten you have to have something that you come back with. You have to have that performance. You have to have that extra few per cent.” 

The level of focus, the level of work, the level of detail has gone up another gear this week. 

“There’s been a lot of player stuff, a lot of players meeting individually and going over roles and making sure everything is bang on,” the Leinster prop continues.

“That’s always happening but I suppose there’s been a little bit of a spike in it now. Lads are hurting a bit and we got all that done at the start of the week and now it’s fine-tuning and there’s more little groups getting together and stuff.

“But there’s still the coaches coming in and weighing in with their tuppence. They’re doing that extra bit of fine-tuning to lead us on the right path so that we can go off together and chat.”

Healy, in peak physical condition and set to win his 86th cap against Scotland this afternoon, is straining at the leash to exorcise the demons. 2.15pm can’t come quickly enough for Ireland.

Cian Healy celebrates scoring their first try He scored his fifth international try against England. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“Nobody wants demons hanging around for long time like that. The best change is to get out the following week and exorcise that and put right what we got wrong, nail off the final details and put in a very good performance.

“But you can assume nothing. That’s why people lose games. If you assume it’s going to happen, it’s not. You have to work on it and make it happen. Now you’re in a place where you can make that happen and you can go above where you’re normally at.”

Healy’s fifth try in a green jersey briefly gave Ireland the lead on the opening weekend but overall it was another bludgeoning performance from the Clontarf man, who continues to get even better with age. Leaner, fitter, stronger. 

The loosehead will bid to help Ireland dominate the Scottish scrum — an area they feel they may be able to attack, particularly in the absence of WP Nel — but the visitors will also look to Healy’s destructive ball-carrying in response to being bullied by England.

“They’re very good and they’re playing a serious brand of rugby,” he says of Gregor Townsend’s side, who are fired-up and keen to inflict more pain on the defending Grand Slam champions. It’s now three years since they last lost at home in the Six Nations.

A lot of power up front and lot of poachers and an awful lot of speed out back. We’ve been aware of that and it doesn’t matter if they change lads in and rotate the squad because there’s lightning speed throughout and there’s good ball players and poachers everywhere.

It may only be week two of the 2019 championship, but this is now must-win territory for Ireland. Another defeat isn’t worth thinking about.

“We’ve been here before and we’ve come out of it,” Healy adds. “The way we play, we play everything as a must-win and I think that’s why they can sting a bit more when you lose them. People in here care about what we’re doing so we go full-out for every game and unfortunately that one last week was a must-win that we lost.

“So it’s the same attitude. We just need to be sharper in everything.”

The wounds are still raw. There’s only one way to recompense. 

Following a tough Six Nations opening defeat to England, Joe Schmidt will look to regroup against a dangerous Scotland side. This week, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey are joined by Bernard Jackman to assess the damage of last weekend and look ahead to the clash in Murrayfield:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Ryan Bailey

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