Perhaps a try in the final stages of the game would have been asking too much of Cian Healy but not rounding off his Ireland comeback with a score will not have dampened the loosehead prop’s delight at bringing a long, hard summer to a satisfactory conclusion.
A year ago, Healy was coming to terms with a serious hamstring injury suffered during a Leinster training session that saw him sidelined until the back end of the Six Nations. Less than four months ago he was undergoing neck surgery.
So after spending his pre-season in rehabilitation rather than rugby, fighting pain as well as his eagerness to get out onto a pitch, the 20-minute run off the bench he got against Canada represented the end of a stressful and uncertain summer.
He nearly capped his return with a try at the death as Ireland, already 50-7 to the good, surged forward for one last score and Healy came up with the sort of physical, strong carry that makes him such a valuable component of this team. It got him over the line but he could not quite ground the ball and he knocked on, the TMO rightly denying him his five points.
“It was a long road of 24/7 with medics and in and out of rehab the whole time, and to get over that first hurdle and have that behind me now is nice.”
Watching his team-mates prepare for the World Cup in four warm-up Tests while he was just trying to prove his fitness made for a tough three months on the sidelines, Healy admitted.
“It’s always a bit of struggle, not playing for a while and then being on rehab for the whole summer, but I stuck to what the medical people said, they’ve seen it all before so I was just doing what I was told and plugging away, trying to be as patient as possible.
“I just came back and came back and I was told, ‘not yet’, and they really looked after me until I had the right strength built up in the muscles again to be able to do that.”
Being told not to rush back, not just by the IRFU medical staff but by the team management also was a huge help in lifting some of the pressure facing him as he strove to make the 31-man World Cup squad.
“It just meant that I was able to do all the proper rehab, I wasn’t under pressure to go out when I wasn’t fully fit and hadn’t developed the muscle to make a full tackle.”
Now back in good health, Healy is fit and raring to go with next Sunday’s Pool D game at Wembley against Romania his next target for more minutes.
“I’m feeling pretty fit, I’ve done a lot of running over the last while, it’s one of the things I have been able to do and they’ve certainly exploited that.
“So I’m fit on those terms but it’s just about working on my sharpness and taking every chance I can to do it.... I’m just training and going about my business, just hoping to get picked and eventually get into a starting role, hopefully.” For now, though, his team-mates are just happy to have Healy back on the field with his friend Jamie Heaslip chief among them.
“He’s a freak,” Heaslip said. “He’s had a tough road to recovery, but he is back with a bang. I was rooming with him the last two months and he’s been pretty giddy to have the opportunity to get out there and it was great to see.
“I was happy it was a scrum that he was coming out to and he made his presence known on that field. That was why we were so keen to get him back, he’s a serious presence.”
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