Ireland’s Cian Healy, Rory Best and Mike Ross became the most-capped front row in Six Nations history today – their 16-match run erasing a Welsh record that stood for just under 35 years – but it is trophies and not records that Healy is hoping for come the end of the Championship.
The trio were immense as Ireland’s pack dominated their Welsh counterparts during the 26-3 win, contributing in no small way to the 10 turnovers and two lineout steals that was a platform for crucial periods of the game.
“It speaks for itself,” said Cian Healy of the front row combination, who have replacements Jack McGrath, Martin Moore and Sean Cronin snapping at their heels.
“The three of us have worked hard. We have done a lot of work together. It’s going to be challenging with the boys coming up behind us.
“But things like records don’t matter when there are no trophies sitting there. You can ask us again at the end (of the Championship). We wouldn’t be playing if we weren’t going for the trophy.”
Coupled with the New Zealand and Scotland games, this was Ireland’s third strong performance on the trot and Healy said it is very much a collective effort as they continue to make strides under the new management.
“Everyone has had a part to play. It hasn’t been any few players really stepping out as individuals. We have put everything in, it is everyone working for the same cause. It is all controlled progress.
“Pete (O’Mahony) has had a thing to do, Sexto (Jonathan Sexton) has had a thing, everyone has added in something. There have been no lone soldiers. We are going forward as a team, as a unit and that is the way it is.”
O’Mahony was a deserving winner of the RBS man-of-the-match award against Wales, the all-action flanker getting through a huge amount of work while – as Healy highlights – continually encouraging his team-mates around him.
Asked about the pride that has been so evident in Ireland’s recent displays, the young prop admitted: “It’s something that is part of an Irish team. In the past we have had the odd performance that we haven’t had that same drive and that thing that Irish teams are known for.
“We are known for having our heart on our sleeves and being strong. That is going to become a big part of this team again and we are not going to let it slip.
“Pete (O’Mahony) is around everything. He is everywhere on the pitch. When you hit someone he is picking you up, when you scrum well he’s picking you up and it’s a good trait of his.”
While the defending Six Nations struggled to stay in touch, Joe Schmidt’s men were visibly far hungrier than the visitors and that transferred onto the scoreboard as they ran out 23-point winners.
Ireland have now gone 160 minutes without conceding a try in this year’s Six Nations, a pleasing statistic no doubt for both the players and coaches.
From a forward’s point of view, Healy is enjoying working closely with ex-Natal Sharks boss John Plumtree who is beginning to get the best out of this Irish pack, with their lineout and mauling both stand-out features in the opening two games.
“Our defence (was really good again), we used it as an attacking platform. That is what we trained for and it is good to see training park stuff working.
“To be a reputable pack we need to be able to do that. That is where we are going to have a base from – you can’t take a step back from that.
“A lot of it (is down to John Plumtree). He’s putting a bit of confidence in us, about what we can do, what we are capable of going forward and it’s been plugged hard in training. He is a man with high standards and thankfully we’ve lived up to them.”