Leinster’s young guns loud and proud, says Healy

Leinster’s young guns loud and proud, says Healy
Cian Healy in Leinster training yesterday. ‘I’m an observer and I take on as much as I can,’ says the veteran. Picture: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Plenty has changed at Leinster since Cian Healy first laced his boots for the club.

A first European title was another two years down the line when he made his debut against a Border Reivers side that is nothing more than a distant memory these days. Donnybrook, the scene of his unveiling, hasn’t been home to the province’s top side for over a dozen years.

What hasn’t changed all that much is Healy’s modus operandi.

The veteran lock is a much more capable and interesting speaker than the monosyllabic kid who grunted into a microphone back in the day but he remains a man who prefers to walk the walk than talk the talk.

“I’m an observer, and I take on as much as I can,” he admits.

This latest generation of players are, in the main, a very different breed. Not for them the anonymity, or safety, of a corner in the back of the room at team meetings.

These are players inured to the raw honesty of video reviews and assessments through their years in all-bur-professional environments at school and academy levels.

They are accustomed to being afforded the floor and the environment at Leinster appears to be one where that is encouraged. Not for Healy, it seems, the old-fashioned dressing-room hierarchy which decreed that rookies be seen but not heard.

“No, I f**king love it when that happens,” he insists, “when lads are coming in and calling people out in meetings. As long as they’re somewhat along the line of [being] right, putting their actions where their chat is.

“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 to it on the pitch, regardless of your age, it is respected.

Stuart Lancaster added to our understanding of that culture at the club this week when he went into some detail about life on the training pitch.

Here too it appears to be the case that an individual’s terms of service or birth cert is deemed irrelevant.

Leinster have an enormous squad but there is an understanding that some can’t be relegated to the status of water carrier. Sessions will often involve three teams of 10 or 14 players so that people are constantly rotating in and out.

Lancaster did a review of last Saturday’s Leinster-Connacht game four days ago and there was close to 55 people in the room between players, senior coaches, and academy staff. The same review was repeated later in the morning for some academy players who couldn’t make the first one.

Small details that equate to big statements.

The benefits are obvious — new players entering the environment feel valued and informed and well-drilled while the senior pros, whose job it is to encourage this renewal of talent as well as win games, can feed off the pressure being created for their jerseys from within.

“It is not a bigger challenge but, you are certainly expected to be on,” says Healy.

I think that is given as a standard. 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.”

The benefits of such a finely balanced ecosystem are being witnessed on a weekly basis right now as Leinster push through deeper and deeper into the season without a loss, or even so much as a draw, to their name in either PRO14 or Champions Cup fare.

Healy is aware that this is becoming a topic for ever greater discussion as the streak goes on but no-one at Leinster seems interested in adding to the kindling as they look to make it 16 wins on the trot this campaign when Lyon come to the RDS on Sunday.

“Looking at stuff like that isn’t really helpful to anything,” he insists.

Maybe not, but it is instructive.

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