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Cian Healy weighs in on the medals debate surrounding No1 Ireland

(Photo by Paul Devlin/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Veteran prop Cian Healy has insisted that becoming the most-capped Ireland Test player would mean very little without lifting the World Cup. Healy is the most experienced international in Andy Farrell’s squad and has an opportunity to secure a place in his country’s record books during the next year.


The 35-year-old, who looks set to win his 120th cap by making a rare start when the Irish host Fiji on Saturday, needs just 15 more appearances to seize the top spot from Brian O’Driscoll. While the Leinster forward could potentially achieve the feat during the 2023 World Cup in France, his main ambition is silverware.

“I could have 200 caps and no medals and I know where I’d be happier,” he said. “I’d take another five if I got some more silverware for it, instead of another 20. I think a cap number without reward is not so important.”

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Healy sits behind O’Driscoll (133), Ronan O’Gara (128) and Rory Best (124) in the current Ireland caps list, with ten of his last 13 outings coming as a replacement. He has won three Six Nations titles, including the 2018 Grand Slam, in a Test career stretching back to 2009. Farrell’s in-form side held on to their position as rugby’s top-ranked nation at the weekend by downing world champions South Africa in Dublin.

Healy, who came off the Ireland bench in the 19-16 win over the Springboks, played down the significance of that status and, having been reduced to a peripheral role following Andrew Porter’s switch to loosehead, believes he still has plenty to offer. “Personally, I would tend not to look at that sort of stuff,” he said. “I wouldn’t take a ranking into account because I don’t have a medal for a ranking. That is how I look at things.”


Speaking about his role within the squad, he said: “I have to drag the best out of myself and be in a position that, if called upon, I’m there to do a job. To me, that’s the fun part of it. The competition week in, week out and pushing for the top spot because if you lose that drive there is no point in being in here.”


Head coach Farrell is expected to make a host of changes for the Fiji clash at the Aviva Stadium before Ireland’s autumn campaign concludes against Australia a week later. Healy is likely to be joined in the front row by fellow prop Finlay Bealham, with first-choice pair Porter and Tadhg Furlong poised to be rested. Australia-born Bealham has won only four of his 26 caps as a starter.

While he accepts permanently dislodging Furlong will be a major ask, the Connacht forward hopes to give Farrell further food for thought. “Tadhg is obviously a world-class player and he is a British Lion and everything like that but I need to be pushing him and making him better and making myself better,” said Bealham.

“I wouldn’t see myself as a backup player. I can fill that role and keep pushing myself and finding new limits to where I can go and see what happens. Tadhg has been very good to me. I work a lot with him in terms of reviewing training and preparation, just kind of bouncing ideas off him, learning from him as best as I can, and asking him questions about what I could do better, little things like that.

“We catch up most nights and sit down for an hour and go through training, go through scrums, all that fun stuff, and have a really good conversation about things. That has been an area where I have got a lot of growth so I’m very thankful to him for letting me.”



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