Healy was a late withdrawal from the team which destroyed Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens in round three of the Heineken Cup last Saturday, his place being taken by Jack McGrath.
The youngster has been a revelation this season and yet the loss of Healy for what is a vital stretch of Leinster’s season is, nonetheless, a blow to a side once again making a concerted push for silverware on both fronts.
“Cian is a world-class player,” said O’Connor. “He rolled his ankle late in the week last week and it wasn’t until we scanned it that we had any indication of how serious it was and what the diagnosis was moving forward.
“That puts a bit more pressure on Jack [McGrath] and the guys in behind him in relation to Jack O’Connell and what’s in behind that. We’re pretty confident. We’ve got an all-Irish front row and we know they’ve done a fantastic job for us this year.”
The medical term for Healy’s injury is syndesmosis, one common to sports people and sometimes referred to as a high ankle sprain as it concerns the ligaments above the ankle joint itself.
Joe Schmidt will hope Healy can recover a tad quicker than the timeframe suggested yesterday as that would leave him highly doubtful for the start of Ireland’s 2014 Six Nations campaign, against Scotland on February 2.
Leinster did at least emerge from their bloodless coup in the English East Midlands last weekend light on further injuries, with Sean O’Brien’s dead leg the main cause for concern ahead of tomorrow’s return in Dublin.
O’Connor is optimistic that the flanker will be available but wouldn’t state so definitively and, wouldn’t you know, mention of O’Brien eventually led towards further talk of the Carlow man’s contract status. Talk of imminent moves to France for both O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip have been wide of the mark so far but their club futures remain in doubt. Frustrating?
“That’s the game,” said the Australian. “It is supply and demand. Nothing’s changed in that regard. There’s probably greater demand for certain positions in the market within the game, certainly at the top level.”
Healy and O’Brien aside, it remains to be seen how many alterations O’Connor makes to the starting XV. The side is announced at noon today and most eyes will search instinctively for the number 10 berth. Jimmy Goppperth was handed the controls for the opening two rounds, away to Ospreys and at home to Castres, while Ian Madigan got the nod and excelled last week against Jim Mallinder’s men.
“Madigan was very good against Scarlets. He was very good in the Irish environment and he probably played more in that environment than most of us would have predicted. I said from day one that it was going to be a matter of time for Ian to get his head around what we were trying to do.
“I thought he was brilliant last week, the accuracy of his game, the way he managed us around the field was brilliant and if he continues to do that he will play a hell of a lot of rugby for us.”