Healy not looking at lengthy sentence

Ireland v England - RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship

One thing we’ve learned from ugly optics on the rugby field is that what you see is not always what you get. So the seemingly awful stamp of Cian Healy on the ankle of Dan Cole was actually not as bad as appeared on action replays, and is unlikely to get him a lengthy ban tomorrow. I’d say he’ll get three weeks, and maybe just two.

Consider it under two criteria: intent and effect.

Healy’s intent was not cynical. Brutal, obviously, but not cynical. In 2006 and 2008 the IRB issued  directives to referees and judicial officers to, excuse the pun, come down hard on those who stamped on exposed limbs at the ruck.

It is gratuitous, potentially dangerous, and in no way related to freeing the ball so your team can get on with the game. It’s a case of taking the opportunity to inflict some pain on a helpless opponent. A classic example, which went unpunished, was Tom Court stamping on Leo Cullen in the Christmas derby in Ravenhill this season. Cullen jumped up full of fury at the time, and calmed down subsequently – maybe because he has done a bit of it himself through the years.

In Healy’s case, he didn’t arrive on the scene and then trample on Cole for the fun of it. On the contrary – he raced to it when he saw Cole (who was on the floor and therefore obliged to do nothing other than get out of the way) raise his right leg to impede Conor Murray in clearing the ball. It was reactionary rather than opportunistic.

Referee Jerome Garces had already indicated a penalty but by this stage Healy is on the charge. He can’t get at the ball where Murray is trying to free it, so he goes to the right hand side where Cole’s leg is still raised, and then stamps the offending foot back to earth. Next, he shoves it back out of the way. Whereupon he turns to look at Garces as if to ask why the ref hadn’t run in and done the same.

Interestingly, England hooker Tom Youngs reacts by having a go at Peter O’Mahony, who had taken a slice off Cole’s backside with a hefty stamp, rather than Healy.

As for the effect of Healy’s action, it was successful in moving the offending limb out of the way, and Cole – in fairness to him he made nothing of the incident – got up and played on. He was treated seven minutes later.

Healy has played 37 times for Ireland and 110 times for Leinster and, remarkably, has no cards for foul play. If you take it that the apparent ruthlessness used in the incident will have him in the mid range category, where the starting point is five weeks, then his good record will push him towards low end, which has an entry point of two weeks.

The tricky bit is the IRB instruction to judicial officers. They can’t be seen to issue instructions on the one hand and then not follow through with them on the other. The judicial officer, Roger Morris, however, will appreciate that the landscape is littered with examples of players being trampled on – with varying degrees of vigour – and getting away with it because it is doing so little damage. So it’s not as if the IRB’s directives have given us consistency on the issue. Lumping Healy with a hefty ban won’t achieve that.


About Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning has been involved in rugby all of his life as a player, coach and journalist. He has been rugby correspondent on the Sunday Independent since 1996, and has been reporting on the game since the mid 1980s when he stopped playing with Clontarf. In 2007 his book From There to Here, a definitive account of Ireland’s transition from amateur to professional rugby, was published to critical acclaim.
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7 Responses to Healy not looking at lengthy sentence

  1. John says:

    Another sickening and blatant journo sucking up to a player. What Healy did was nasty and blatant. And yet fangio does a “see Cian I’m your buddy” love-note. And another side swipe at Peter O’Mahony for no other reason other than taking spotlight off your little buddy! Are you your colleague Barry Egan in disguise…..

  2. Miriam says:

    Healy has had five yellow cards in his career, 4 for Leinster and one for Ireland (details below)

    29/02/08 Away v Connacht (Magners League)
    02/05/09 Away v Munster (H-Cup Semi Final)
    26/09/09 Away v Edinburgh (Magners League)
    23/01/10 Away v London Irish (H-Cup Round 6)

    13/02/10 Away v France (6 Nations)

    And by the way, finding those details was a matter of about five minutes work!!!

    • Cookie says:

      A quick look at the statistics above shows that it is three years since Cian has received a yellow. An incredible record for such an aggressive prop forward. This quite correctly will be taken in to account when deciding on his sanction. Agree with Brendan that the act was brutal but not synical. Two weeks is an appropriate ban.

    • Thanks Miriam. If you have another five mins to spare you could devote one of them to re-reading the paragraph concerned, and the other four to looking at the difference between a card for ‘foul play’ and one for a ‘professional foul.’ All the best!

      • Miriam says:

        Hi Brendan, firstly I suppose I ‘should’ apologise – there was no need for me to add the sarcastic line “And by the way, finding those details was a matter of about five minutes work!!!” at the end of my comment yesterday.

        However, considering the tone of your response I would like to add that, as requested, I have spent a minute re-reading the suggested paragraph and still can only see that you said “Healy has played 37 times for Ireland and 110 times for Leinster and, remarkably, has no cards for foul play”.

        The IRB Laws of Rugby Union, Law 10 defines a foul as follows: “Foul play is anything a player does within the playing enclosure that is against the letter and spirit of the Laws of the Game. It includes obstruction, unfair play, repeated infringements, dangerous play and misconduct which is prejudicial to the Game”.

        There is no distinction in Law 10 between ‘foul play’ and a ‘professional foul’ and any action which results in a yellow card cannot be considered to be anything other than foul play.

        For the record (I’m sure you already know this Brendan but there may be some of your readers who don’t 😉 ) Healy’s cards were for the following offences:

        13/02/10 Away v France (6 Nations) – early tackle on Trinh-Duc
        23/01/10 Away v London Irish (H-Cup Round 6) – ‘forearm’ on Bob Casey
        26/09/09 Away v Edinburgh (Magners League) – slowing Edinburgh ball
        02/05/09 Away v Munster (H-Cup Semi Final) – shoulder charge on Ian Dowling

        Unfortunately, as it’s from quite a while ago I am unable to find information on the reason for the card in Leinster’s Magner’s League match, away to Connacht in February 2008.

        Have a nice day.

  3. wayne farrell says:

    Hi Brendan. I do agree with you all Cain was doing was cleaning out at at ruck time and lets face it let men be men,. If you are on the wrong side tough – take your punishment! One other comment though if it is ok for Ireland to stamp a bit its also ok for the AB’s (and some other countries to do the same)
    Wayne Farrell

  4. Bricamp says:

    Amazing how brutal intent seems to be condoned in some cases

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