Human hails Healy's 'amazing' progress


HEINEKEN CUP SEMI-FINAL:Toulouse prop Daan Human tells JOHN O'SULLIVANhow he was impressed by the technical excellence of Leinster but singled out Cian Healy for especial praise

DAAN HUMAN personified grace in defeat, generous is his appraisal of Leinster’s performance in claiming a Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Toulouse at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Disappointment was etched into his features as he marshalled his thoughts on the contest in the tight environs of a corridor in the bowels of the West Stand.

The 35-year-old prop, who won four caps for the Springboks, was acutely aware of what a difference a year makes in reconciling the differences between Toulouse’s victory over Leinster at the penultimate stage of the tournament last season and Saturday’s contest in Dublin in which the roles of victors and vanquished were reversed.

Human had been part of a Toulouse scrum that had eviscerated their opponents 12 months ago on French soil and his second-half introduction on Saturday allowed him to make a value judgment on the progression in this aspect of Leinster’s set-piece.

He was impressed by the collective technical excellence of his Irish opponents but singled out Cian Healy for especial praise. In Toulouse Healy, along with the entire pack, had endured a horrible shellacking in the scrum, replaced before the interval but on Saturday Human was staggered by the young Irishman’s progress and maturity.

The obvious starting point for discussion was the keynote scrum in the contest on the hour – Heinke van der Merwe had just replaced Healy at that point, initially as a blood substitution – when Leinster marched the Toulouse scrum backwards and sideways, the latter collapsing concertina like and forced into the concession of a penalty.

Human admitted: “We were really disappointed there because we had a lot of confidence in our own scrum from last year, but they made it (that gap) up.

“They sent on Heinke van der Merwe and I think he had a hell of an impact on the game, although (Cian) Healy for me was a top player. He played a hell of a game.

“Heinke came on and he made a difference; we were going backwards. There was no doubt that it was a penalty.”

The former Springbok was then invited to assess the progress that Healy has made in the last 12 months. “I must congratulate him (Healy). I spoke to a friend of mine (a reference to a conversation with Ireland forwards’ coach Gert Smal) which I understand is a selector of the Irish team. I said to him: ‘Listen, that’s not the same player anymore.’ I couldn’t believe that he’s only 23; I (still) can’t believe it.

“It’s amazing, he’s got a great career in front of him especially the way he played today; there’s no way that he’s not going to be in the World Cup squad. He played a hell of a game, especially in scrum time. That’s where we really had them last year, I think, and the way that he improved there was amazing, I don’t know who helped him. Maybe he can come over and help us as well.

“We are very disappointed and there is no doubt about that. But I mean they (Leinster) really merit their win. I can go and praise them all day. They did well and deserve their win more than us, mostly because of discipline and that was the difference between the teams.”

Human also believes that Leinster can replicate the four-times European champions in becoming multiple winners, following on from their 2009 victory. “Definitely, if you look at the way that they played and the way they’ve been coached by your man over there (Human nods towards Joe Schmidt standing a little distance away) obviously there’s a special factor there. I think to win two Heineken Cups you need to be disciplined and that showed today and if they’re going to stay disciplined like this I can’t see any team beating them, not in the final.”

So the two best teams in Europe out there on the Aviva pitch? “Well, I don’t want to say but you said it, anyway. I will go as far as say that I discussed this earlier with my friend (Toulouse number eight and fellow South African) Shaun Sowerby that genuinely the team that won today will win a Heineken Cup. You can make a bet here, and if I have money I will bet it on them.”

He’s unlikely to be alone.