Healy able to see the greater good as Ireland turn focus to Japan

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Cian Healy has no desire to take a breather next weekend, when Ireland face Japan in Shizuoka, but the veteran prop would at least understand Joe Schmidt’s way of thinking were he asked to sit on the bench, or in the stands.

The Ireland head coach has spoken time and again about the dangers of the six-day turnaround between the team’s opening game, which they won against Scotland on Sunday, and the second round encounter with the host nation.

Japan will actually have benefited from two days extra recovery and prep time so the expectation is that the Six Nations side will show a number of changes from the one that started against their near neighbours in Yokohama.

Joey Carbery, Rob Kearney and Keith Earls are all training fully and on track to make a case for inclusion after sitting out the first assignment and Schmidt may well look to freshen things up among the forwards given the shift put in as a collective in round one.

Healy wouldn’t have even entertained that suggestion in his younger days but he is 31 now and, while he wants to play every minute, there would be a grudging acceptance of the thought process if he was stood down for this next one.

“I want to be involved in as many as possible,” he explained. “Whether it’s a start or bench, I want to be involved and play games but if the lads feel that’s the best option for us to go forward, then now I probably have a more reasonable head to understand that decision.”

Yokohama was hot and humid on Sunday for the Scotland game and conditions were made all the more uncomfortable for the two teams by a persistent drizzle which made handling difficult, especially in the second-half when the volume increased.

Healy able to see the greater good as Ireland turn focus to Japan

Healy was one of those who played in Japan on the summer tour two years ago but this was different. That 2017 series was played out underneath a blinding sun. It was that humidity which created difficulties this time.

“It just takes your breath in a different way. It’s not like playing in the sun or anything like that. Your breath just goes but it comes back pretty quickly though. The recovery period, when there’s a break in play you can get back to regular pretty quick but those extended periods of play do put pressure on the lungs.

We’ve done a lot of extended periods of training so it’s in the head then and it’s not a shock. We’ve been to that place already so it’s a continuous reminder that it’s all good, just keep going through it and we’ll get to our spots

Ireland posted two ultimately comfortable wins against the Japanese on that ’17 tour which has left them well-versed in terms of what to expect from a side that values a high-tempo game. Speed work will be a key focus in training this week.

Much the same was being said about Scotland who ultimately flattered to deceive yet again just when expectation was at its height among their fans but Ireland will have to deal with a vociferous home support at the Stadium ECOPA this weekend.

The eyes of the nation here are rarely on the game of rugby so this is an opportunity to build on the ‘Miracle of Brighton’ from 2015 when they scalped South Africa. But that win against the Scots demonstrated just how adept Ireland can be in enjoying the tournament buzz without being discommoded by it.

“There was a buzz about the place and, coming in, we could see a lot of fans. Even here in the hotel there was loads of people in jerseys before we left and there was a nice feeling about it. There was the big build-up into it when we were trying our best to keep ourselves simmering for as long as possible and not play the game too many times in my head early.

“So that, and then getting into the stadium and immersing ourselves and it was kind of different. Everything played out differently than it would for a Six Nations or a November game. It was nice, it was enjoyable.”

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