‘I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t think I could last the pace’ — Cian Healy

CIAN HEALY HAS no lingering doubts about his fitness as he aims to win back his starting place in the Ireland front row for this weekend’s Six Nations meeting with England.

The Leinster loosehead missed three months of rugby as he recovered from an incredibly severe hamstring injury. But now, after coming off the bench during Ireland’s win over France and again for 37 minutes of Leinster’s win over Zebre, he is confident he can keep up with international pace from the start.

“I wouldn’t have come back at this stage if I didn’t think I was, or I didn’t think I could last the pace. Or if I thought it was something that could do my leg again,” the prop said at Carton House today.

“I’m at a good fitness level. I’ve covered plenty of clicks on the fitness clock and strength hasn’t been an issue over the whole thing. So I feel I’m in a good position if called on.”

The last three words are key to Healy’s message. He has nothing but respect for the way Jack McGrath has performed in his stead. Yet neither deed nor word can hide his desire to start a game again.

“Listen, I always want to start. That’s why you play rugby, to start for your team.

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“It’s gonna be a tough one to budge Jack. He’s been in there for the slog of it and he’s done a really good job. I’ve not got any massive opportunities to stake a claim. It’s about training well and being as well prepared as I can be, if I’m called upon I’ll be ready to do a good job.”

He added:  ”[Zebre] was good because I got to do a bit of attacking, [against France] it was all defence when I came on. So it was a good opportunity to stretch the legs and put the lungs under a bit of pressure.

Whether the coaching staff opt to stick with McGrath or twist with the option of Healy, forwards coach Simon Easterby is just happy to have the strength in depth available.

“We’re lucky that we’ve got Cian coming back to full fitness and up to speed on what we’re doing. Three months, he’s made a really quick recovery from that injury.

“We also have a player in Jack who’s been phenomenal in everything he does. We now have a great position at loosehead in that we have two quality players we can call on.”

Which one would you pick to start against England?

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