Cian Healy will be fit and raring to go toe-to-toe when Leinster meet a Northampton pack scrum coach Greg Feek ranks with the very best in Europe.
Three-time Heineken Cup champions Leinster travel to Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday looking to extend their unbeaten start to three wins out of three in Pool 1.
The province also look set to welcome back Ireland frontline prop Mike Ross just a fortnight after himself and Healy emptied the tank in the heartbreaking defeat to New Zealand.
Feek said his front-rowers wereitching to get stuck into the English high-fliers.
“They’re fine,” the New Zealander said. “Cian’s raring to go, he’s fine, he loves to play.
“It’s the same with Rossy. He’s a big man and the big boys like to be out there, he had a relatively light week and then ended up getting 60 minutes (against Scarlets last weekend) so that’s put him in good stead. He hadn’t played a lot before November so it’s not like he’ll be burned out at this stage.
“Cian’s an explosive player, he gives it everything and with that explosiveness lactic acid builds up and again he was probably short of a gallop (against the All Blacks) and probably still is but he’ll be better for having those games under his belt and hopefully the fitness is still there from it.”
Leinster scrum coach Feek engineered a half-time turnaround in fortunes for his pack during their epic come-from-behind victory over the Saints during the 2011 Heineken Cup final in Cardiff after the province had been under the cosh during a first half dominated by Northampton who took a 22-6 interval lead.
Despite Leinster’s fightback to win 33-22 and the fact that Saints lost Test props Soane Tonga’uiha and Brian Mujati to Racing Metro during the summer, Feek believes that while Northampton’s scrum has changed it is not weaker than the 2011 model.
“Mujati and Tonga’uiha aren’t there, that’s the obvious one, but they’ve still got their talismen there in Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes and in the back row Tom Wood, (Calum) Clark, (Sam) Dickinson, they’re all still there so it’s still a formidable task.
“The young guys who were in there before Tonaga’uiha and Mujati, the Waller brothers (Alex and Ethan), they’ve come along and (are) going pretty well.
“They’re coached well, they’re a good unit, they’ve got good players who are buying in, they’ve got a good back five which help the front row and Dylan Hartley there, their subs work well too so there’s never an easy game in the Heineken Cup, particularly up front.”
Feek believes the strength of the Saints’ pack is based on more than just its personnel, however, and points to an enduring philosophy in their forward play.
“They have their way of doing things and it’s very effective.
“Their scrum and their maul, what they do in those areas is right up there and they’ve obviously put a lot of work into it as a group and individually and driven it to a high standard so you’ve got to acknowledge that and respect that.”
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