Cian Healy made his 250th appearance for Leinster as a second half replacement during the province’s 42-10 victory over Benetton at the RDS on Friday night, his arrival greeted by a standing ovation. It was a nice touch and underlined both his popularity and the regard in which he is held as a player.
It is a little over 15 years since a 19-year-old made his debut for Leinster against Border Reivers in May 2007. The home side won the match 31-0 with Healy getting on for the last 16 minutes.
RTÉ noted at the time that: “Tonight’s game marked the last home outings for Leinster retirees Reggie Corrigan, Guy Easterby and Will Green, and it was also the province’s last match at Donnybrook before redevelopment work begins at their old Dublin ground.” Easterby is the current Leinster team manager.
Leinster scored tries through Felipe Contepomi, Gordon D’Arcy, Jamie Heaslip, Brian Blaney and Christian Warner for a four-try, bonus point win. However, despite a 15th straight home win, Michael Cheika’s side were pipped by the Ospreys to the league title that year.
Healy (34), a Lion (2013), has won 118 caps for Ireland, scoring 10 tries while his strike-rate with Leinster is even more impressive, 30 tries in 250 appearances: and counting.
He was asked what advice he would give to young players coming through ahead of Friday night’s game. “Be yourself, that’s the most important thing. People will have quirks and twists in them and that is the fun thing about rugby, it has so many different types of people and they all blend in to make unique squads. Being yourself is important and opening up into a group.”
Known for displaying his drop goal process in pre-match warm-ups, perhaps the only thing left for him to achieve in scoring terms is to do so in a match.
By the Numbers: 9
Leinster hooker Dan Sheehan became just the ninth player to score four tries in a United Rugby Championship match (including previous incarnations of the league) when doing so on Friday night at the RDS. He is just the third forward and the first front row player, matching the feat by former Ulster and current Bulls number eight Marcell Coetzee and Munster’s Gavin Coombes.
Word of Mouth
“We don’t have the luxury of having a haka, so our response is the boomerang shape and to move forward. They’ve thrown down a challenge and we’re accepting it. We think it’s a very respectful way of responding, and it’s unique to us because of the boomerang shape. We won’t be stopping that.” Australia coach Dave Rennie defends the way his players opposed the Haka.
Officials take the headlines
The debate about intrusive or unsympathetic officiating has received plenty of airing in recent weeks polarising opinion and it’s likely to get more oxygen after the weekend’s matches in the two Rugby Championship matches.
New Zealand beat Australia 40-14 at Eden Park to claim the title in a match refereed by Welsh born, Irish referee Andrew Brace. He awarded 29 penalties, Australia conceded 16 and had two players sent to the sin bin.
There were a couple of controversial moments, Sam Whitelock’s try for one, but it was an incident that went unpunished involving Australia’s Reece Hodge and Sevu Reece (New Zealand) that has once again shone a light on a lack of consistency in punishing high shots.
Reece, in making a tackle on Hodge, is upright as his head strikes his Australian opponent. In fairness to Brace his attention should have been drawn to it by TMO Ben Whitehouse but it was allowed to pass without even a review.
Former All Blacks scrumhalf Justin Marshall said: “I certainly felt that last night Sevu Reece probably should have got … definitely a yellow, possibly a red card.” Ex-Wallaby great Tim Horan thought it looked pretty bad and concluded: “I don’t really agree with all the laws, but the law has been pretty consistent, so I’d be surprised if he’s not cited.”
South Africa’s 38-21 win over Argentina contained a staggering 38 penalties and six yellow cards, four going to Argentine players. Instead of focusing simply on the officials, World Rugby may use these figures to demand better discipline from teams going forward or in the future change the laws to punish, at the time, cumulative team transgressions over a certain number in a match.
Battle of the Irish nines
Wexford born Jack Stafford followed up his senior league debut off the bench for Harlequins the weekend before last with a starting role in their midweek Premiership Rugby Cup game – it’s a second-tier competition – against London Irish at The Stoop.
The 25-year-old former Munster academy and Ireland underage international scrumhalf was part of a Harlequins squad that included Simon Zebo’s cousin, flying wing Conor Oresanya, who has previously been involved with Ireland Under-19s and subsequently, the England Under-20 group.
Hayden Hyde, once of the Irish 20s, and latterly the England Sevens squad started at centre before going off with a leg injury. London Irish won the game 30-26 and included in their try scorers was 24-year-old scrumhalf Hugh O’Sullivan, younger brother of Meath Gaelic footballer Cillian, who moved to the Exiles from Leinster.
O’Sullivan is vying with Caolan Englefield, London born, Irish qualified, to understudy first choice scrumhalf at the club, Ben White.