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'It's an incredible feat': Five years after nerve damage nearly ended his career, Cian Healy is about to become a Test centurion

By Liam Heagney

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Ireland loosehead Cian Healy is set to join Test rugby’s centurion club this five years after he was on the verge of retiring due to a nerve injury that had brought his career to a sudden halt. Having won the 2015 Six Nations, the prop went for surgery on a disc in his neck. However, the operation resulted in the complication of nerve damage that left him without the use of his right hand and considering quitting prior to England 2015. 

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He managed to return to play in time for that tournament but it was only after the summer of 2017 that the player he had been pre-operation started to re-emerge and having wrested back the No1 shirt from Jack McGrath, the now 33-year-old Healy is on the cusp of joining the very exclusive 100-cap club. 

Only Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Rory Best, Paul O’Connell and John Hayes have previously played on 100 occasions for Ireland, the likes of Peter Stringer, Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Donncha O’Callaghan and Malcolm O’Kelly all falling just short of appearance figures in the 90s. 

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Healy, though, will break the ton when he appears in the Six Nations finale next Saturday that sees Ireland travel to France. It’s a 100-cap milestone that Healy was a million miles from registering when considering retirement through injury five years ago while 51 caps.

Current Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton, who himself has 91 Test caps for Ireland and the Lions, said: “If he gets picked it is an incredible feat. You look at the guys who have 100 caps, how special players they are. You don’t get there easily. 

“Every player that is in that category are legends of the game really in Ireland. He will add to that legacy if he gets that 100th cap. He deserves it. He is so professional in the way he goes about his business. He has had one particularly bad injury that he took a while to get back from and then once he did he put an unbelievable amount of work into getting himself back. I’m absolutely chuffed for him. 

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“I’m very good friends with him. I know his family very well and his wife, they will be so proud of him. It’s another little layer on to our story in terms of what we want if it is his 100th cap. We want to honour him in the best way possible which would be trying to win the game. It was the same with the first cappers last week, we wanted to make the day special for them.”

Having beaten Italy last weekend in Dublin, Ireland are currently top of the Six Nations table heading into the final round and head to Paris knowing a bonus-point win would guarantee them the title regardless of what England do against Italy in Rome. Without a bonus-point win, the destination of the title will likely be decided by points difference. 

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'It's an incredible feat': Five years after nerve damage nearly ended his career, Cian Healy is about to become a Test centurion

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