Cian Healy takes his downtime as seriously as his rugby and he believes a weekend off leading into a full week of preparation for Ireland’s final World Cup pool game this Saturday can translate into a big performance against Samoa.
Last Thursday’s patchy bonus-point win over Russia in Kobe may have exercised the concerns of anxious rugby supporters back home but Ireland put the 35-0 victory, their third game in 12 days, firmly in the rearview mirror and looked forward to an extended nine-day turnaround to the Samoan clash.
Healy, whose 93rd Ireland cap had come the previous Saturday in the shock defeat to host nation Japan in Shizuoka, sat out the Russian game but that did not mean a week off and the 32-year-old was looking forward as much as anyone in the squad to being able to relax for a day or two in Ireland’s latest base of Fukuoka before turning the focus towards a Samoa game in which only a maximum five match points will guarantee progress to the quarter-finals.
“It’s ideal in a sense that the players will have more of an opportunity to look after their bodies, they have time down away from rugby if they want and that, but with a seven-day turnaround we’re capable of putting in big performances, we know that,” Healy said.
“We don’t need to rely on an extra couple of days for a big performance, and we’re going to use it wisely.
“It’s just how you use it.
“Come Monday, it’s crack on and it’s game-week.”
Healy had no plans for the weekend other than to “just relax and kick the feet up for a bit. Probably go for a ramble and see a bit”.
Yet last week the loosehead prop made the most of an opportunity to spend time with a master knifemaker, Shigeki Tanaka. Healy and team-mate Peter O’Mahony visited the bladesmith at his forge, north of Kobe.
“It was brilliant. Class. Myself and Pete just went out for the day and got an opportunity to try it and see him work and it’s a pretty big thing over here so it’s nice to do something which I enjoy and try it their way. It’s the blacksmithing style, so it’s more of the original style how it began.
“I’ve made the shape of (the blade) in his workshop and then with everything I have I’ll be able to finish it off at home. I’ll have to send him a picture.”
View this post on Instagram
Incredible experience today in the forge of shigeki tanaka, an extremely skilled and successful bladesmith from Miki City, Japan. He trusted and helped us to use his tools and helped me forge out my own knife which I can finish in my workshop at home! I've never used a power hammer before and absolutely loved the experience! Not too bad a result either! Tanaka San is a 4th generation Smith, all before him made sickles until he broke the mould and moved into knife making, now selling his works worldwide. Now that's how I like to spend a day away from rugby!! #knifemaking #forge #hammerin #handmade #japan #culture
Now Healy will spend time sharpening his rugby readiness for what looks like an extremely physical encounter with Samoa in Fukuoka this Saturday as Ireland look to put the travails of last week behind them and give themselves a springboard into what they hope will be a quarter-final back in Tokyo.
The Japan game and his own performance, he admitted, has been difficult to park and he has been working hard to at least work on the latter of those disappointments.
“It’s still burning with me a bit and I’ve kind of pushed myself through a good bit of extra work because I wasn’t happy with how I went there.
“I wasn’t happy with how my lungs were burning there so I’ve had a few extra fitness sessions and the video work that ...you can only do so much on the pitch without wrecking yourself, so I’ve put a good bit into the analysis side of it going forward and it’s just something I don’t want to happen again.
“In the past a blip like that is something that’s sent us out of a competition, so I suppose in one way it’s lucky that it wasn’t a quarter-final that it showed up in and it’s an opportunity for us to push on and have a good performance this week, and then knock on again and keep going.”
The scrum penalty conceded in the 65th minute against Japan was a pivotal moment in the game and a result, Healy believes, of not letting the shackles off enough.
“We’re cautious of getting done for penalties, we do pride ourselves on that, but there’s room to let the shackles off a bit and go a bit harder because our training scrummaging sessions are horrible at times.
“You’re killing each other and there’s a lot of pressure and tension. So unlock that and have a go. At the same time, it’s finding the area of the park to do that. You don’t want to do that if you’re within kicking distance so it’s just getting everyone on that page and start cracking into things with the scrum.”