How assertive Ben Healy is kick-starting a new era at Edinburgh Rugby

It’s a long way from Tipperary but Ben Healy hasn’t taken long to settle.

His first start for Scotland saw the former Munster man pilot the national side to a 25-13 win over Italy in July and he was voted man of the match. In his sole appearance at the Rugby World Cup the stand-off scored a try and kicked 11 out of 11 conversions as Romania were thrashed 84-0 in Lille. His debut for Edinburgh at the weekend was no less impactful as he helped his new club turn round a 0-14 deficit against the Dragons to win 22-17 in Newport. Another player of the match award followed.

Healy had been in Scottish Rugby’s sights for some time but it required some persuasion to lure him across the Irish Sea. Moves to take him to Glasgow Warriors foundered on more than once occasion. The cultured 10 had a big decision to make on his international future but finally took the plunge last season and threw in his lot with Scotland for whom he qualifies through his mother’s family who hail from the Turiff area of Aberdeenshire. Edinburgh announced in January that he would be joining them for the 2023-24 season and he was named in Scotland’s Six Nations squad a couple of weeks later having previously represented Ireland up to under-20 level. He saw out the season with Munster, helping them win the URC final, before turning his attention to Scotland and Edinburgh. He linked up with his new club-mates last Monday and quickly asserted himself.

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“I think the huge thing last week was he came in and he really took the reins,” reported Mark Bennett, the experienced Edinburgh centre. “He came in and he was very clear on ‘This is what I’m looking for, this is what I need’. And he’s been really vocal in calling people and giving that constructive criticism to get them into places where we need them.

Ben Healy during an Edinburgh Rugby training session at the Hive Stadium. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)Ben Healy during an Edinburgh Rugby training session at the Hive Stadium. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Ben Healy during an Edinburgh Rugby training session at the Hive Stadium. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“He’s come in and really taken hold of the attack shape, which has been really good. And obviously his performance at the weekend –he was excellent. He kicked them off the park. I think that’s just the beginning as well. So I’m excited to see him grow into the team, and having that real direction in there from him will only benefit us in the long run.”

It feels like a fresh start for Edinburgh. Sean Everitt has taken over as coach and is advocating a more pragmatic approach. While he still wants to play attacking rugby, he wants to make sure it’s done in the right areas. He was pleased with the resilience they showed in the Dragons win and the way Healy took control, kicking 17 points and setting up Ben Vellacott for Edinburgh’s only try. The stand-off praised his new team-mates but admitted remembering everyone’s name was not easy.

“It’s been quick in terms of how I’ve settled in – the lads have made it very easy,” said Healy. “In terms of game plan, at the weekend it was quite straightforward what we wanted to do, and same again going forward on this weekend [when Edinburgh host the Lions]. So there hasn’t been too much for me to do, but I wouldn’t say I’ll fully fit in for a number of weeks, to be honest, in terms of being exactly crystal clear on what we need to do. But then again we don’t want to peak at this time of year either, do we? It’s looking good at the moment.

“Names took a little while to tick off. I suppose towards the end of the week I started to get everyone. But that’s part of the job of being a 10, being assertive. The biggest thing is that the guys around you have confidence in what you’re doing - so you can’t really give off any shades of doubt or any shades that you might be one or two steps behind in terms of what the club or the team is trying to do.”

Healy kicked well for Scotland in his World Cup run-out in Lille.Healy kicked well for Scotland in his World Cup run-out in Lille.
Healy kicked well for Scotland in his World Cup run-out in Lille.

An old school stand-off who controls the game, kicks beautifully and plays with his head up, Healy’s acquisition looks like a smart piece of business by Edinburgh and the SRU. Although he represented Ireland up to under-20 level, he found his path to the senior team blocked by a surfeit of talented 10s. Munster and Ireland’s loss looks like being Edinburgh and Scotland’s gain as the 24-year-old sets about establishing himself as his club’s first-choice playmaker.

“I’ve chatted to Sean about the adjustments he wants to make based on where Edinburgh have been over the past number of years,” added Healy. “If I can add to that, brilliant. But I think it’s probably more of a holistic approach. We want to have a complete game. The way the URC and Europe have gone, with the teams that are there, you have to have a complete game. You can’t really have an Achilles’ heel.”

Healy’s place-kicking accuracy was key to the victory at Rodney Parade and is an area Everitt had identified as a weakness of Edinburgh’s last season where their success rate off the tee was as low as 62 per cent in the URC. Healy says his schooling at Munster has been pivotal to his goalkicking prowess.

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“I came from a club where I had a really good skills coach, Pat Whelan. He’s worked with a number of good kickers - I had him for about ten years, to be honest. So I credit him - he taught me the basics really young and taught me the value of ‘the more time you put in, the more you get out’. Yeah, I would probably have to give credit to him and a few more coaches along the way.”

The aim now is to kick on with Edinburgh.



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