Cian Healy is writing his way back to full match fitness but the Ireland prop recognises it will be bigger muscles than those in his hands that will define success over a mighty Romanian scrum on Sunday.
Having come off the bench last Saturday against Canada for his first 20 minutes of rugby since undergoing neck surgery in May, the loosehead could be poised to continue his comeback this weekend when Ireland face Romania’s Oaks at Wembley Stadium in the second of four Pool D matches.
Healy has been running hard and making his presence felt around the immaculate training pitches at St George’s Park as the Irish squad have made full use of the English FA’s 330-acre, €120m state-of-the-art training facility near Burton Upon Trent. The Leinster front row has also been concentrating on the finer details of honing his body for the campaign ahead.
“It’s building up all the small muscles,” Healy said after the 50-7 Canada victory. “The big forearm muscles are pretty easy to build, but it’s all the small ones that you can’t do weights with, they’re hard to build up.”
Instead of weights, Healy has turned to the pen rather than the sword for the solution and yesterday he said: “Writing a little bit of stuff in the diary. That’s about it and that’s partly to train my hand, to train the smaller muscles. Writing has been one of the things that helps. It’s quite an easy way to train.”
As to the content, the usually creative Healy has been playing it straight. “I literally write what I did for the day. It’s relatively boring.”
As for off-field entertainment, the task at hand is taking preference, namely how to deal with Romania. “Studying,” was the prop’s reply as to what he did with his down time this week.
“Have to get all my lineouts and stuff sorted. Having been away from playing for so long, it’s one of the things I have to have nailed on, so I’m spending all my extra time on the computers.
“I’ve had to pick up on it an awful lot more than I used to.
“It’s not too bad. A lot of it is the system that I’m used to. It’s just triggers and all the stuff to get up to speed on and have my reaction speeds up. So today I was trying to get in for a couple more than usual, trying to get through a few reps. Doing it is an awful lot easier than sitting at a computer looking at it.”
It is the Romanians’ scrummaging, though, that needs most attention if their performance in defeat to France on Wednesday night was anything to go by. The Oaks’ lineout was a strong platform producing a great mauled try, but its execution was not perfect while the scrum caused the French pack plenty of problems.
Whether the same front row of Castres’ Mihaita Lazar, Colomiers’ Otar Turashvili, and Perpignan’s Paulica Ion will remain intact to face Ireland just four days on from their Olympic Stadium exertions remains to be seen, but Healy and his squad-mates are preparing to face the best Romania can throw at them.
“The only experience I could put it down to is the French teams and how they constitute the scrum and trying 40 minutes of straight scrummaging sessions and stuff, that’s what I expect at the weekend, a big scrum.
“We have been training that way. We work very hard on our system. We trust our system, we don’t flog ourselves a bit now we train for excellence in our set-up and stuff and when we get that we are happy with it.”
Ireland’s set-piece has consistently produced under Joe Schmidt and his forwards coaches over the past three seasons, John Plumtree and now Simon Easterby, with Greg Feek presiding over scrummaging.
Healy acknowledges it is a weapon for his side rather than merely a means to restart the game. “It has been that for a while. We have worked hard on it for a couple of years now and everyone is fairly clued in to what we want to do to our advantage. It is something we can use to our benefit when everyone is switched on.”
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