DCSIMG

Six Nations: Cian Healy citing boosts Scots hopes

  • by GARETH BLACK
 

SCOTLAND’S hopes of beating Ireland at Murrayfield in the Six Nations for the first time since 2001 improved yesterday following a gloomy bulletin from their rivals’ camp, with Cian Healy cited for stamping on England prop Dan Cole and several key players now likely to miss the match on 24 February.

SCOTLAND’S hopes of beating Ireland at Murrayfield in the Six Nations for the first time since 2001 improved yesterday following a gloomy bulletin from their rivals’ camp, with Cian Healy cited for stamping on England prop Dan Cole and several key players now likely to miss the match on 24 February.

While Scotland will go into the match on a high following their impressive 34-10 victory against Italy on Saturday, Ireland are still feeling the effects of their 12-6 defeat to England at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

Healy’s citing has added to a mounting sense of alarm in the Irish camp, where it emerged that fly-half Jonathan Sexton and lock Mike McCarthy are rated doubtful to face Scotland, while Brian O’Driscoll and Donnacha Ryan are to see specialists. Winger Simon Zebo has already been ruled out for up to ten weeks with a broken foot sustained in the bruising loss to England.

Healy will appear before an independent Six Nations disciplinary committee in London tomorrow to answer for an offence that received widespread condemnation. With Cole lying prone after a maul had collapsed, Healy approached the Leicester tighthead and brought his foot down heavily on his right ankle.

The stamp ignited a large brawl, although referee Jerome Garces had failed to spot what sparked it and Healy evaded punishment on the pitch.

The recommended suspension for a low end stamping offence is two weeks, the mid range five weeks and top end nine weeks, up to a maximum of one year, although adjustments to take account of remorse shown, a guilty plea and previous disciplinary record can be made. It is hard to envisage Healy, a leading contender for selection by the Lions in Australia this summer, escaping censure tomorrow given that television replays clearly show the incident. A two-week ban would rule him out of Ireland’s next Six Nations assignment against Scotland, while a more extensive suspension would also threaten his involvement against France and Italy.

Coach Declan Kidney can ill-afford to lose a player of Healy’s calibre, especially while he contends with an ever-lengthening injury list.

An update released this afternoon revealed that Sexton has strained rather than torn his hamstring, but his participation at Murrayfield is still uncertain.

McCarthy’s knee is to be examined by a specialist, as is O’Driscoll’s ankle and Ryan’s back. Neither O’Driscoll nor Ryan have been ruled out against Scotland, but McCarthy could be sidelined.

Stemming the flow of bad news is that full-back Rob Kearney and openside Sean O’Brien are expected to travel to Edinburgh after suffering a dead leg and tight hamstring respectively against England.

Kearney has attempted to rally deflated his team-mates by declaring that victory over Scotland will thrust them straight back into title contention.

Ireland’s dream of repeating their 2009 Grand Slam ended at the Aviva Stadium yesterday with a performance that once more highlighted the team’s maddening inconsistency.

After the optimism generated by an emphatic opening-day win against Wales, England supplied a reality check.

“You always want to back up one big win with another,” the Leinster full-back said.

“We’ve been criticised over consistency in the past and England were the perfect opportunity to showcase that we are a consistent team who can back up victories.

“But it’s by no means panic stations. We have to take a bit of confidence from the fact this championship is still wide open.

“We’ll keep plugging away and if we get back to winning ways in Edinburgh we’ll be back in the hunt again and that has to be the focus.

“England are the only unbeaten team, but they still have France and Wales to come who are World Cup semi-finalists, so they won’t be easy games. It’s wide open.”

 

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