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Easterby: Loosehead Is A Great Position For Us Now

Easterby: Loosehead Is A Great Position For Us Now

With Cian Healy fit again and his Leinster colleague Jack McGrath having risen to the challenge in his absence, the battle for the Ireland number 1 jersey has certainly intensified.

Cian Healy was released back to Leinster last week and was a second half replacement in their bonus point win over Zebre. Having torn his hamstring straight off the bone last year, the Clontarf native is back building his game-time now after three months out.

Delighted to have two such high quality loosehead props to choose from, Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby explained: “Cian has made a really quick recovery from that injury and he’s come back in unbelievable shape. But we also have a player in Jack (McGrath) who has been phenomenal, and his numbers are high in everything that he does.

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“We now have a great position at loosehead that we do have two quality players in there we can call upon. It’s a good position to be in – it’s not every position that we have that in.”

Whichever one makes the grade for the starting position against Stuart Lancaster’s England side, Easterby knows the impact of such a talented replacement off the bench will give a massive boost to the team.

Healy, who came off the bench during the second half of the French game, is itching to start against England and renew rivalries with Dan Cole, their regular tighthead prop.

Speaking about the English front rowers, he added: “The only one I would look at would be Dan Cole and I’ve been at him since underage level. His improvements and how much better he has got over the years and become a cornerstone of their pack, so he would be the only one I would really take note of.

“You look at them (other players) but I wouldn’t be ticking them off as anything hugely influential to go against me.

“I always want to start and that’s why you play rugby to start. But it’s going to be tough to budge Jack, he’s been in there for the slog of it and he’s done a really good job.”

Easterby added: “You’ve got Jack who has played a lot of rugby for us and done really well for a young man in a very attritional position. To have Cian last week come off the bench, and have someone like him with his presence around come on and slot into the team when he does get on the pitch was fantastic.

“Now I’m sure that whoever is on the bench (this Sunday) would feel they would want to come on and slot in and make sure the levels of performance don’t drop. Cian or Jack, well you’ve got two great players there who can start or bench, and both would make that type of contribution I think you’re talking about if they come on.”

There is a definite change in the back row with Jordi Murphy likely to come in at number 8 for the injured Jamie Heaslip, who broke three vertebrae in his back during an incident involving France’s Pascal Pape in the last game.

Murphy made his first Six Nations start against Italy in the recent Championship opener in Rome and Easterby has been impressed with the 23-year-old’s form for both province and country.

“I was very pleased with how Jordi came in against Italy, and he’s done very well. Jamie has been the mainstay at number 8 for a number of years, probably since 2008. He’s had a fairly good run, he’s a quality player and a leader for us and his province.

“Whoever we bring in has big boots to fill but we’re pleased we’re building depth in that position and that’s important for every position.

“We’d like two if not three players who could ensure they do not drop the standard when they come in. Jordi certainly maintained that against Italy, then Jamie came back in and had a pretty nasty injury against France. So we’ve got to react to that and we feel pretty confident we’ve got the personnel to slot into that position with Jamie being injured.”