Healy ban opens door for Kilcoyne

Munster loosehead prop Dave Kilcoyne appears poised for his first Test start for Ireland on February 24 against Scotland after first-choice number one Cian Healy was suspended yesterday for three weeks.

Since making his Test debut against South Africa in November, Kilcoyne, 24, has earned four caps, all as back-up to Healy but is in pole position to start in his stead after the Leinster man was found guilty of stamping on England’s Dan Cole during last Sunday’s RBS 6 Nations defeat in Dublin.

Ireland will not call up a replacement for Healy until after the weekend with Ulster’s in-form loosehead Tom Court in line for a recall from head coach Declan Kidney for the first time since he was used out of position off the bench at Twickenham as a replacement for injured tighthead Mike Ross.

That decision on a replacement will not be made until the weekend, after those players who finished the 12-6 defeat to England at the Aviva Stadium last weekend have taken part in a two-day mini-camp in Kildare, which starts today.

The exceptions to that will be Ronan O’Gara and Donncha O’Callaghan, who were released back to Munster for this weekend’s RaboDirect Pro12 trip to Scarlets. Pending the extensive medical reports being compiled in the wake of last Sunday’s round-two loss, with the chief concern being fly-half Jonny Sexton (hamstring), Kidney will name a squad for the Scotland game after the camp and unless Healy successfully appeals the decision of the independent Six Nations Disciplinary Committee he faced in London yesterday, the 25-year-old is set to miss Ireland’s next two Six Nations games, in Edinburgh and also against France at the Aviva Stadium on March 9.

Healy and the Ireland management will not decide whether to appeal the three-week ban until they have considered the written judgment from the hearing, which had been convened after the prop was cited for stamping on Cole’s leg.

The disciplinary committee, chaired by Roger Morris of Wales and also comprising Italian Achille Reali and Julien Berenger of France considered the stamp a mid-range offence in terms of seriousness having viewed footage of the incident and listened to representations by and on behalf of Healy. That merited a five-week ban but the committee allowed the maximum two weeks of mitigation, thereby reducing the suspension to three weeks.

Or, three weeks and four days. The date of the citing is the normal starting point for any suspension but in determining Healy would not have played for Leinster this weekend the committee implemented International Rugby Board regulation 17.19.11 (b), deferring its commencement in order to cover the player’s next two meaningful games, and so banned him until midnight on Sunday, March 10.

That is understood to have raised eyebrows in the Irish camp but Six Nations Tournament and Operations Director Jon Davis last night told the Irish Examiner: “What that regulation does is try to account for the fact that if there are no matches, then the suspension shouldn’t cover that week.

“On the balance of probabilities, which is what the committees do, they felt that, no, he wasn’t going to play this weekend.”

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