Healy going about Clermont job one scrum at a time
Cian Healy brings an efficiency of language to his thoughts for this week’s march up the mountain in Clermont. The loosehead prop may roll as “ProperChurch” on Twitter and fill the minds of his followers with in-the-know observations on deejaying and popular television – “Jesus Nidge is some piece of work” – but Healy is a conformist at heart. In the patter of the frontrow anything other than simplicity is dissident.
His recent twittered observation on RTÉ’s visceral Love/Hate and the fantastic capacity for violence of the thoroughly likeable Nidge on his fellow scummers, notably Tommy, may not be the recommended state of mind to bring into Leinster’s third pool match, against Clermont. Leinster, unlike Nidge, will not be taking a weighted golf club to the French juggernaut.
But there is no standing back from the anticipated physical challenge and Healy and the likes of Richardt Strauss, Michael Bent, Heike van der Merwe, Seán O’Brien and Mike Ross will face their most intense test of the season.
Healy also understands the frontrow battle in the scrum and the platform-making set-pieces, is always key. Lose that and the game unravels. The booming semi-final against the French side last season drew the boundaries for the anticipated mini-battles on Sunday.
“That’s gone for me,” he says of that meeting. “All it is used for is for revision for this week. I don’t really hold on to games too much. I haven’t looked at the breakdown or anything like that. I have just looked at scrums. I have seen what I wanted and seen where I want to target and seen where myself and Heinke (van der Merwe) will be able to deal with it.”
Healy need only look to last month to figure out the dimensions of the challenge. In Paris just weeks ago France led Australia 13-6 at half-time at Stade de France. The Australian tighthead Sekope Kepu was having a tough time at the hands of the French debutant Yannick Forestier. As it transpired that was a softening-up exercise.
France went to the bench and brought on Benjamin Kayser, Thomas Domingo and Vincent Debaty, an entire Clermont Auvergne frontrow. Within four minutes, at around mid point in the second half, referee Nigel Owens had awarded a penalty try to France.
Leinster may be two times European champions but Clermot’s home reputation has them making the trip to Stade Marcel Michelin as potential victims.
“Granted they have a great squad,” acknowledges Healy. “They have a lot of quality players there with a lot of experience so we will be dealing with a tough side. I’d say we will go as underdogs. We have had a good response to that. But for a while now we have put a lot of it aside, kept it in-house and not taken on anything to do with that underdog thing . . . just carried on about ourselves and our performances and what we want to get out of it.”
Then there is a possible backline of Lee Byrne, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Aurelien Rougerie, Wesley Fofana and Napolioni Nalaga, with Brock James and Morgan Parra at halfback, which may not affect Healy head-on but in attritional terms, it will resonate throughout the team.
His focus, however, remains on frontrow engineering, not the capacity of the rest of the team to face the tsunami of a home record of 50 matches unbeaten.
“Whoever is picked is ready to go out and do their best and that is the way it has been,” says Healy. “The planning is all the same. We do the same meetings, the same training and drills. It’s all the one for us.
“You know you can empty the tank when quality is there. It has been working well with Heinke and myself so far and we have gotten to a level of understanding of where we push ourselves and it is quite good for the squad to have players who can go all out, not trying to save a single thing.
“Empty themselves, empty the bench. A 23-man game more than anything. You can put your feet up after,” he says.