Cian Healy's attitude and conscientious dedication to the rehabilitation process, allied to the work of the Leinster medical team, could see him complete a remarkable recovery from injury appreciably ahead of the timescale first outlined, according to his provincial scrum coach, Marco Caputo.
The initial prognosis for the Leinster, Ireland and Lions prop, was that he would be sidelined for four to five months following surgery to repair a hamstring he tore off the bone while training with Leinster last September, but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that he may yet take some part in the province's final two Champions Cup pool matches against Castres Olympique and Wasps.
He looks certain to be fit, if not necessarily match fit, ahead of Ireland's opening match in this season's Six Nations Championship against Italy at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Saturday, February 7th.
Caputo explained: “There’s a balancing act and it’s about managing the risk. He’s (Healy) got a couple of boxes to tick as far as (to) when he’s let off the leash. The biggest is the strength imbalance in his (respective) legs, his good leg and bad leg. He’s making real progress. I think he’s got his next benchmark examination next Monday and if he comes through that he’ll be in the frame (for selection).”
Returning to play
The Australian was elaborating on an earlier remark in which he suggested that Healy and Seán O’Brien were two to three weeks away from returning to play. It’s unlikely that Healy would be risked for the Castres match but he’s got another 13 days until the final pool match against Wasps at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, the former London club’s new home ground.
If Healy fails to make either match then Ireland coach Joe Schmidt might be tempted to play him for the Wolfhounds against the England Saxons in Musgrave Park on Friday, January 30th, an option that could be available in the case of O’Brien too.
Caputo’s more immediate concern though is Leinster’s trip to the Cardiff Blues this weekend, a game that will herald the return of Marty Moore, who be in the 23-man squad, for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery in early October, an injury he sustained in the game against Zebre.
The Australian explained: “Marty could possibly have been pushed to play over the weekend (just gone). The last two weeks we have put him through the wringer as far as his return to play; he’s done a lot of contact, been put through a live scrumagging session and he’s been doing all the conditioning bits outside the team training.
"He could have played last week but coming off a significant injury, a shoulder reconstruction, we held him back but he will definitely come into the match day 23 for Cardiff. Rob Kearney will be available, (Eoin) Reddan will available, Dominic Ryan too; he's (Ryan) been cleared to play so we have some fresh bodies coming back into the mix which will hopefully rejuvenate the group."
Caputo confirmed that captain Jamie Heaslip, who went off with an A/C joint strain, remarkably the first time the number eight has been replaced through injury in a Leinster match since 2010, could have played at the weekend but will be rested ahead of the resumption of European fare.
One player whose participation is in doubt is loosehead Jack McGrath who will be summoned to a disciplinary tribunal during the week after being cited for alleged stamping on the ankle of Ulster captain, Rory Best.