Tuesday, November 08, 2022

By Ed Elliot, PA, Dublin

Veteran prop Cian Healy insists becoming Ireland’s most-capped 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 top spot from Brian O’Driscoll.

While the Leinster man could potentially achieve the feat during the 2023 World Cup in France, his main ambition centres on 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.”

Healy sits behind O’Driscoll (133), Ronan O’Gara (128) and Rory Best (124) in the current caps list, with 10 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.

Brian O’Driscoll holds Ireland's individual cap record
Brian O’Driscoll holds Ireland’s individual cap record (Andrew Matthews/PA)

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 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’s 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’s 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.

Ireland’s Finlay Bealham has been a replacement for the majority of his Test career
Ireland’s Finlay Bealham has been a replacement for the majority of his Test career (Brian Lawless/PA)

“Tadhg’s obviously a world-class player and he’s 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 back-up player. I can fill that role and keep pushing myself and finding new limits to where I can go and see what happens.

“Tadhg’s 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’s been an area where I’ve got a lot of growth from so I’m very thankful to him for letting me.”

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