Cian Healy: The 97-cap veteran who’s still eager to learn more

With 97 Test caps to his name, it is fair to say Cian Healy has seen his share of captaincy styles over the years and, in his mind, the current skipper is not doing too badly at all.

Cian Healy: The 97-cap veteran who’s still eager to learn more

With 97 Test caps to his name, it is fair to say Cian Healy has seen his share of captaincy styles over the years and, in his mind, the current skipper is not doing too badly at all.

Healy will be in a good space running out for Ireland appearance number 98 at Twickenham on Sunday in the wake of Johnny Sexton, just as he was behind Rory Best, Paul O’Connell, and Brian O’Driscoll before him.

That quartet of leaders has provoked a variety of emotions in the players that served under them and while the reappearance of O’Connell in the Ireland camp this week brought back memories for Healy — of panic attacks during lineout drills — the loosehead prop senses as much calm as passion in the way Sexton leads his men.

The veteran fly-half, Healy said, had been “very good”.

“He has a real focus on family and the family in (camp), and the family that everyone has at home. I think that’s pretty important to everyone because a lot of the lads, when they’re in camp, are spending a long time away from home.

“To have reminders about why you do it, why you want to do it, why you enjoy it — that’s pretty good. He’s a very passionate leader and it’s pretty nice to be following him.”

Another plus is that Sexton has not brought on any panic attacks... “No... well, he almost has before now. More rows!”

O’Connell’s presence, at head coach Andy Farrell’s invitation, as an observer and also someone for the current squad to touch base with if they wish has been welcomed by his old pack-mate Healy.

“It’s good. I’ve only been shooting the breeze with him, I haven’t got into his mindset yet but I do plan to.

“It’s great having him here for some of the lads who haven’t played with him and who wouldn’t understand what he brought to a group.

“That’s what lads are doing, sitting down and picking his brains a bit. He’s (at) the fore of what it means to be Irish, the way he played and the way he held himself so that’s good for those who didn’t play with him before. You’d be watching how he played, you can see a lot of it in the way James Ryan is as a ball-carrier, that front-foot stuff. If someone does that in a team, that’s infectious, it gets everyone doing that.

“You see when opposition defences are hitting you back and hitting you back, you end up having more soaks and more collisions lost. But when you’re on that front foot and someone starts it, goes through that line first, then you’re on top and you’re the ones winning the collisions, you’re the ones over the line.

“There’s a couple of people like that that put their teams into those positions and he would have been one of them.”

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