Ireland’s Cian Healy expects reaction from wounded England

Cian Healy insists Grand Slam-chasing Ireland would be “silly” to underestimate a “bloody dangerous” England side reeling from a record-breaking hammering at the hands of France.

Andy Farrell’s men are heavy favourites to complete a Guinness Six Nations clean sweep when Steve Borthwick’s wounded team visit Dublin on Saturday.

England travel across the Irish Sea on the back of their biggest Twickenham loss to Les Bleus – a 53-10 humiliation – which emphatically wiped them out of title contention and sparked a fresh inquest into the team’s ongoing struggles.

Veteran prop Healy believes it would be foolish to judge the visitors on a single result and is wary of the power of the opposition’s forwards as Ireland look to make it a memorable St Patrick’s Day weekend.

“You expect a bounce-back,” he said. “England rugby is very strong historically, in our area they’ve a very strong pack, we’re not going to look at that (France) game and go, ‘Oh yeah, that’s going to happen for us’. That would be silly of us.

“We’ll treat them with the historical respect we treat that pack with, because they’re bloody dangerous and have very good players and have top-end weight in the pack.

“We’ll review this properly and you don’t just look at a team’s last game, you look at their season, their players and their club games. You go through everything.

England were humiliated by France
England were humiliated by France (Ben Whitley/PA)

“There’s a lot to pick apart and we’ll do that, but at the same time there’s going to be a lot of focus on ourselves.”

Like influential captain Johnny Sexton, Healy has already won three Six Nations titles, including the Grand Slam in 2018.

The 35-year-old, who has 122 Test caps, says there is no danger of complacency with his long-time Leinster and international team-mate still around.

“Johnny has his own standards and all of us strive to get to those standards and we get absolutely torn into when we don’t, but we try,” said Healy.

Johnny Sexton, centre, is a relentless taskmaster, according to Cian Healy
Johnny Sexton, centre, is a relentless taskmaster, according to Cian Healy (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Johnny’s standard is so high and it has been for so long that it just drives something special in him.

“He lives for that successful feeling after a game. The Johnny you see after a game is the most enjoyable Johnny to be around, it’s a different person, it’s class.

“If anything is going to make me play better, it’s to get to meet that Johnny for a while.”

Sexton drew level with former Ireland fly-half Ronan O’Gara as the Six Nations’ all-time record points scorer during Sunday’s 22-7 success over Scotland, with a tally of 557.

“He deserves all the accolades he gets because he’s a fierce competitor, an unbelievable professional,” continued Healy.

“But I think he’s very aware that team success is the most important thing.

“He could take the points tally and someone down the line will take it off him.

“But if he takes a victory at the weekend, no one will ever take it off him and it’s something that belongs to him and a special group. That’s the sort of thing that’s going to drive Johnny.”

Healy came off the bench in the 48th minute at Murrayfield to play a pivotal role in helping the world’s top-ranked nation remain in pole position for the championship crown.

With Farrell’s side in danger of dropping to 14 men due to the threat of uncontested scrums following injuries to hookers Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher, the loosehead stepped into the unfamiliar number two role, between Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong.

“I went into the middle of two of the best props in the world, so I’m in a relatively good starting place,” he said.

“(I thought) just give it a lash, have a shot, nothing to lose. I don’t mind if someone lifted me up out of the middle of a scrum, I can take that.

“We ended up with 15 men on the field, when we could have been with 14, and that’s the greater cause.”