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Healy 'annoyed' about scrum penalties as Ireland's forwards strive for more

The Irish maul struggled to get going against Scotland last weekend.

THE PASS HE delivered to Conor Murray just before Johnny Sexton’s try against Scotland last weekend has surely given Cian Healy some bragging rights among Ireland’s forwards, well-disguised as it was.

With Scotland expecting another heavy carry, the Ireland loosehead prop instead swivelled to hit Murray, who in turn found Sexton in a clever mini-play that used their penalty advantage to perfect effect.

32-year-old Healy is hopeful his short pass to Murray is only a small sign of things to come from Ireland’s forwards.

cian-healy Healy made a short pass to Conor Murray for Johnny Sexton's try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With Andy Farrell and attack coach Mike Catt keen for Ireland to play with greater width, the forwards’ ability to pass will be important in the team’s development.

“We’ve got a lot of good ball-players in the squad, everyone is more than capable,” says Healy. “There are harder passes that I will leave to Tadhg [Furlong], but that’s a nice little one to be a part of.

“It’s just about playing the game. We don’t want to be the heavies that aren’t good enough on the ball. Everyone’s getting their hands on balls, everyone’s doing different skills.

“It’s definitely a drive that everyone is fully comfortable to play whatever ball it is. If Johnny [Sexton] drops out, you want anyone to step in and get a ball to 12 or 13. It’s going to be pretty fluid.”

All of which sounds very encouraging but Healy and his fellow forwards understand that they need to focus intently on the set-piece. Last weekend against the Scots, Healy was penalised twice in the scrum.

Referee Mathieu Raynal penalised Healy for hinging on the first one when it appeared Zander Fagerson’s left keen had gone to ground first, then Raynal got a call from his assistant referee for the second, where Healy was judged to have stepped out to his left and around.

“I was a bit annoyed at them,” is as much as Healy will say on the penalty decisions, which he clearly didn’t agree with.

cian-healy Ireland had frustrations at scrum time against the Scots. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

In response to what was a messy battle against the Scots, Ireland and their scrum coach John Fogarty have been attempting to replicate that kind of scenario in training.

“There’s a lot of tactical stuff to it and a bit of messing,” explains Healy. “We had to simulate a messy scrum at training and jig a few things about and put each other under different sorts of stress.

“If both of our packs are scrummaging the way we like to scrum, then we’ll have a steady scrum and we will get the ball off the back, but that’s not the perfect world so we had to change it up a little, test each other with angles and messy binds.”

Ireland of the mindset that scrums – and referees – are unpredictable, so they’re preparing accordingly.

The Irish maul also had a poor day against the Scots and it’s another area that is being given plenty of attention this week.

While the lineout was largely accurate with a 90% return, Ireland struggled to get any momentum into their maul and were turned over by the Scots on a couple of occasions.

“We kind of knew what Scotland would bring there at the front of the lineout, hammering in that side,” says second row Iain Henderson.

“They did it to us in the World Cup. Fortunately, a couple of them got pinged in the World Cup but obviously working with different referees you have different outcomes and you have to manage that.”

iain-henderson-and-james-ryan-with-jonny-gray Ireland's maul never got going against the Scots. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Henderson and co. have sat down for a few maul review and preview meetings since Saturday, and the Ulster man is anticipating better from Ireland in this area against the Welsh.

The visitors will be led by the imposing Alun Wyn Jones, the vastly experienced lock of 135 Wales caps and three Lions Test series.

Limiting 34-year-old Jones’ impact will be a key consideration for Ireland’s forwards.

“He’s definitely right up there with one of those guys you have to be aware of,” says Henderson. “He can be extremely destructive on both sides of the ball.

“There were times at the weekend when Italy did a good job on him. However, we can’t just assume that everyone is going to do that and brush him under the rug.

“We have to make that we’re on top of our game defensively and in attack just to make sure him and other threats around their pack and backline are nullified because the moment you assume someone is looked after and they’re not going to cause you much hassle, that’s when you’re going to get trouble thrown at you.”

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Murray Kinsella

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