Cian Healy went very close to marking his return from injury with a try, but he was just pleased to play his part in Ireland’s 50-7 Rugby World Cup victory over Canada this afternoon.
There were concerns that Cian Healy might not make the Rugby World Cup squad. Neck surgery in May required him to be patient with his recovery and the prop failed to feature in any of Ireland’s four warm-up games.
But his rate of progress increased in recent weeks and with his fitness proven, Joe Schmidt put him on the bench for the Pool D opener in Cardiff – giving him a long-awaited first taste of rugby since Leinster’s derby clash with Ulster in late April.
Replacing loosehead rival Jack McGrath for the final quarter, Healy had a couple of noteworthy carries, was a busy presence in defence and almost crowned his return to the green jersey with a late try.
“I was happy to get through a bit of work. I would have liked a few more tackles, a few more scrums but that’s not the way the game panned out, but I’m happy to get over that first hurdle after a long time sitting and watching,” he said of only his fifth Test appearance in 18 months.
“(The neck) is all good. I’ve done enough weights and enough strength work and have the confidence to go in there. It was a long old road back and the medics and the staff showed a lot of faith in me and gave me the time to build back the strength I needed.”
TMO Ben Skeen ruled that the 27-year-old had fumbled the ball forward as he attempted to add to Ireland’s 43-point lead in the dying minutes. Healy himself admitted: “I knew I’d dropped it, but I didn’t know if it had gone backwards or forwards.”
The Dubliner’s successful comeback has whetted his appetite for more and he will hope to wrestle the number 1 jersey away from his Leinster colleague McGrath in the coming weeks. It was clear that he loved being back on the international stage in front of a big, passionate crowd – all 68,523 of them.
“The noise inside the stadium was unbelievable. Once we get into those cut-throat games it will provide us with the extra help that we need,” Healy said of the vocal Irish supporters who created an electric atmosphere under the Millennium Stadium roof.
Meanwhile, flanker Sean O’Brien, one of Ireland’s seven try scorers against Canada, is anticipating another physical encounter when Schmidt’s men meet Romania at Wembley tomorrow week.
“We can be sure they’re going to be physical but we’re going to be well up for it. Our discipline probably has to be a little bit better than it was in the second half today and we know we can’t allow them to get into the game. They’re big boys,” admitted the Tullow man.
O’Brien ended Ireland’s recent Six Nations campaign with a brace of tries, and he started the World Cup with the opener against the Canadians, touching down on the back of a 17th-minute rolling maul.
Pleased to get on the scoresheet again, he added: “It was an easy enough try to score. The boys in front of me did all the hard work, but it’s nice to start off the way we did and get the score too.”