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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: December 20, 2010 @ 12:43 pm

    Healy and O’Brien proved their worth

    Carl O'Malley

    It was quite the performance by Leinster at the weekend and most great to see Cian Healy answer his critics. It seems to be lost on some people that the prop is just 23-years-old. He made his debut for Ireland in 2009, having just turned 22. By contrast, Tony Buckley and the indomitable John Hayes made their first appearances for their country at the ages of 27.

    The latter is rightly held up as an example of professionalism and dedication to all aspiring props and will go down in history as one of Ireland’s best ever.

    However, he could never be compared to Healy in the loose and the youngster has time on his side to eradicate his failings in the scrum and occasional disciplinary issues.

    On Saturday, he was unstoppable against top class opposition. Everyone on the Leinster side was on their game but his sheer desire to lead by example and from the front, especially in the opening exchanges of both halves, had Joe Schmidt’s side in the ascendancy at crucial stages of the game.

    In the 10 years since his debut, Hayes has won 104 caps. Healy can surpass that if he stays fit and keeps developing the way he has over the last year or two.

    He wasn’t alone on Saturday, of course. Se├ín O’Brien again showed how baffling his omissions from the big autumn internationals were.

    Like Healy, he proved too hot to handle for the Clermont defence, consistently breaking the first tackle and making hard yards as Leinster tore into the French champions.

    How Declan Kidney did not look to take the opportunity to test him against either South Africa or New Zealand last month is beyond me. Instead he opted for David Wallace and Stephen Ferris – two great players with nothing to prove, except maybe in the case of the Munster man who, at 34, is so far defying the ravages of time and 66 caps.

    Not taking a closer look at emerging backrow options against the best possible opposition ahead of the Six Nations and, of course, the World Cup, benefitted nobody, but there is time to put it right before New Zealand.

    Healy was given the chance early on, and he and Irish rugby will reap the rewards for years to come, because he can only get better.

    • Curates_egg says:

      Spot on on O’Brien on all fronts. The autumn internationals were a total waste of time. We learned nothing new in the back row or in the back three quarters. Meanwhile, important players were risked through over-exposure and injuries resulted.
      People keep saying Kidney has a plan…I hope they are not just naive.

    • scrumdog says:

      Absolutely, O’Brien should get a 6N start at openside.

    • muckduff says:

      Let me start by saying I am a fan of David Wallace but what is it about Leinster opensides and playing for Ireland. Keith Gleeson was ignored for years yet he was playing superb rugby for Leinster. Shane Jennings returned to Ireland to push for a place in the national side but he too has basically been ignored even though he has been playing terrific rugby for Leinster. Now O’Brien fails to get a decent chance. I realise its only a matter of time before he gets the nod but it should be sooner rather than later. Last Saturday, the Leinster pack proved (if proof was needed) that the provence is a well not only for international class backs but international class forwards also. Healy, Ross, Cullen (how did he not start in any of the November matches?), O’Brien, Jennings, Heaslip all deserve a fair chance to stake a claim.

    • You make a valid point about Gleeson and Ross, muckduff, and there was certainly an argument to be made for Cullen over Mick O’Driscoll in November, but Heaslip? I think his position is safe.

      Just to be clear, I have no interest in allowing this blog descend into parochial posturing.

      Not that you have done that, but provincial rugby discussions are consistently ruined these days, by people trotting out tired stereotypes about those on the ‘other side’. You need only look at our current poll to see fresh evidence of that.

    • John B. Reid says:

      Leinster are making some progress, but they still have a road to travel in order to fulfill their attacking potential and their potential with ball in hand. This is the case with all of the Irish provinces and the national team. Leinster were not clinical enough to make the most of all the scoring opportunities that all of their possession warranted. Hence, their failure to pick up a bonus point victory, which they really should have secured. New Zealand should be the model. The stakeholders in Irish rugby should never forget that what may be good enough to win a Heineken European Cup or a Six Nations Championship will not be good enough to beat the New Zealand All Blacks. So, Irish rugby should take care to set their standards higher than Europe.

    • Mahoney says:

      Ireland are some way behind the leading nations in developing younger players.O’Brien needs the game time that is reaping huge benefits for Cian Healy. Look at how Australia are doing from their investment in youth. David Wallace and John Hayes are proven internationals who deliver for Ireland. We needed to blood O’Brien, and his Leinster colleague Devin Toner along with Donncha & Dominic Ryan. Mick O’Driscoll had a fine game against the All Blacks, however how much would we have benefitted by giving the improving Devin Toner game time against the worlds best? Give youth its chance.

    • Will.I.Am says:

      Would agree SOB should be definite international starter. For those who say he should be open side though, its hard for DK to pick him at 7 when he isnt playing there regulalry for the club. Up against Ferris & Leamy for the 6 shirt and both in decent form also.

    • CHATEAUNEUF says:

      O BRIEN HAS BEEN IRELANDS STAND OUT BACKROW THIS SEASON AND SHOULD BE ONE OF THE FIRST NAMES ON TEAM SHEET. THAT HE ONLY GOT ONE LESS MEANINGFUL MATCH V SAMOA DURING AUTUMN IS MORE THAN HARD TO UNDERSTAND…….LETS HOPE COMMON SENCE WILL FINALLY PREVAIL COME 6N AND BOTH HE AND ROSS WILL START V ITALY. BUCKLEY AND WALLACE SHOULD BE CONSIDERED FOR BENCH IMPACT ROLES.

    • John Ryan says:

      Younger players should be given early experience rather than be thrust into the breech due to injury etc

    • Sandycove Boy says:

      SOB is a great young prospect, but is he a 7. He has been played at 6 most of the year and has done a great job. Jennings is the Leinster 7 and is on great form. The problem for SOB is that ferris is the current Ireland 6 and is well on his way to becoming a great. Ferris is the best backrow forward is ireland and as a lion, Europe.

    • Lorky Porky says:

      When O’Gara was on the pitch it made sense to have Wallace on as his bodyguard, they worked together for so long, and the 10-12 channel could be reinforced by Wallace for country as effectively as it was for Munster. Many teams thought they could exploit O’Gara in defence only to lose out to the greater effect of having him on the otch in attack and gelled into a well oiled machine in defence. The problem was this autumn we started Sexy and should have matched O’Brien as well. A missed opportunity indeed.

    • Cheesy Snacks says:

      @ Will.I.Am A fair point about SOB not being a true 7, however with the new rule variation there is less need for the scavanging 7.. see Heinrich Broussow for the Springbok not getting his game having previously stolen every ruck ball from the lions and looking like the new mmould for a modern 7.

      These new variations mean that two no 6s are more necessary than the classic 7 in which case all back rows are competing for 2 positions, 7 and 6 now being essentially the same role.

    • jack reilly says:

      who cares, american football is better


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