Matt Healy determined to regain lost ground as Wasp come calling
Connacht winger back in harness after injury and expecting cauldron at Sportsground
Matt Healy makes a break against Wasps at the Ricoh Arena. Photogaph: David Rogers/Getty Images
After last weekend’s 32-17 defeat to the English Premiership outfit, Healy says there is no room for error if Connacht want to retake pole position in the Champions Cup pool two.
“There is a lot on the line I think, our future pretty much depends on this weekend. We are out to get a win and that is our motivation,” the 27-year-old says.
Healy, who only made his first appearance for Pat Lam’s side at the Ricoh Arena since breaking his hand in the opening minutes against Edinburgh in September, has endured a frustrating season to date. Due to return against Treviso, he was then withdrawn with a knee injury before his late call-up last weekend for the injured Peter Robb.
The 78-capped player is known for his lightning speed, but his versatility has become just as important for Pat Lam’s squad and he has frequently stepped in at scrumhalf, where he first started playing at Gonzaga, and also at fullback, where he slotted in last week for the injured Tiernan O’Halloran.
Those mounting injuries in Connacht’s backline forced this week’s training to be reduced to one full session yesterday, and Healy says it has been a different build-up to previous cup fixtures.
“We have to be smart about it. There are a good few guys carrying knocks and it was a very attritional game, so we are taking it a little light this week. It’s all about minding ourselves and focusing on the big game on Saturday.”
Healy says the team was frustrated with its defeat in Coventry, which was caused by “uncharacteristic errors”.
“We knew coming off the pitch we had 60 per cent of possession and we played some really good stuff, even our breakdown, but we let slip a few and got turned over at crucial times, but largely our breakdown was good. Our transition into attack from defence was really good, and these are all positives we can take into this weekend.”
In contrast, handling errors proved costly, he says.
“There were 15 handling errors, minimum, which is unacceptable. It is uncharacteristic of us, and I made a lot of mistakes. We must improve on that. You would like to think it won’t happen again. But I have no doubt this game will be completely different.
“Both teams are going to want to improve and Wasps will believe they can, so we are expecting a more physical and even higher tempo game, and we have to prepare for that. The lads are disappointed and they are going to carry that into Saturday.”
Healy, who travelled to South Africa with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland in the summer and received one cap as a replacement, will now be looking for an injury-free run, having missed another opportunity during the Autumn Series.
“It’s great to be back – a little rusty and a lot to work on for the weekend – but being injured is not fun. I was two months [out] with my hand and it’s frustrating when you see the guys winning and you want to be out there contributing, but it’s more frustrating when they are losing,” he says.
Healy believes Connacht will step it up, backed by a capacity crowd at the Sportsground.
“We will stick to what we know and what we are good at. You saw glimpses of it last weekend, and we had them under an awful lot of pressure, and speaking to a few of their guys after the game, they said they had never defended as much in the Premiership. They weren’t used to that, so we will be looking to do the exact same. That’s our game, it’s the way we are used to playing, and it has proved effective in the past, so there is no reason to change.”
Although Wasps manager Dai Young is familiar with the Sportsground having visited many times with Cardiff Blues, it is Wasps first visit, and Healy hopes it will make a difference.
“We can’t wait to be back in the Sportsground, even talking to supporters who travelled over last weekend, they said straightaway that they are looking forward to getting back. We’ve been selling out the Sportsground the last couple of weeks, so it is a great place to be and it’s Champions Cup rugby. The place will be absolutely buzzing.”