URC: Ben Healy ‘very confident’ that Edinburgh will stay in top eight

Stand-off who came through the Irish system is sure that Scotland are now "heading in the right direction"

Ben Healy
Ben Healy has quickly emerged as a key player for Edinburgh this season. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

BEN HEALY is convinced that this season’s United Rugby Championship is the most competitive it has ever been, particularly when it comes to the fight for those eight play-off places. But, as he prepares to return to league action against Ospreys on Friday night, the Edinburgh stand-off is just as convinced that his team will be in that top half of the table come the end of the regular season.  

“Very confident,” Healy said earlier this week when asked how sure he was that his side would be there. “We just need to take it one game at a time, make sure we get wins, and then if bonus points present themselves, we take them.

“But I don’t remember it being this tight at all. I remember growing up – it’s been called multiple different things, the PRO14, PRO12, the Rabo, Celtic League – and it was often viewed as not very competitive. You had the Irish teams … Scarlets and Glasgow won it, but it wasn’t very competitive. 


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“Whereas now, particularly with the South African teams coming in, it’s just so competitive. You have Ospreys ahead of three of the Irish provinces, which hasn’t happened for a while.

“So yeah, it’s really, really competitive, but that’s what you want. You want to play in the best league, don’t you?”

If there is one factor that could tell against Healy’s team in the shake-up at the end of round 18, it is likely to be their lack of bonus points. Right now their record of seven wins and three losses is identical to Glasgow’s – but they are six points behind the Warriors, having only picked up two bonuses on those ten games to date. Similarly, they have won a game more than Ospreys, but are a solitary point clear of the Welsh club in fifth place.

It is easy to put a positive spin on those statistics: better to have lots of wins and few bonuses than the other way round. Last season, for instance, Edinburgh racked up 14 bonus points between narrow defeats and tries scored – but only won six of their 18 games, ending up in 12th place.

So some of this season’s four-point wins represent definite if modest progress. And Healy believes that next season will see his team start to win more games more convincingly.

“I think a lot of the bonus points that we probably missed out on at the start of the season, a lot of that probably had to do with the chop and change towards the end of pre-season,” he explained. “New coach and new coaching staff.

“I would say we scraped home, particularly in those early fixtures, a few games which were key for us, and it was a really good sign of where the squad was at. But bear in mind we had players who were playing at the World Cup and had a week to train with the team when they came in. And like I said a new head coach had just come in to try and implement what he’s doing.

“So hopefully the start of next season will be completely different for us and we’ll start picking up those bonus points.”

 

 

Healy’s near-ever-present status with Edinburgh contrasts with Scotland’s Six Nations campaign, in which he has only so far come off the bench for a few minutes against England. Given that he is back-up fly-half to co-captain and playmaker Finn Russell, he was well aware going into the Championship that game time would be hard to come by – and indeed, when he did make that fleeting appearance at the weekend, it was as a blood replacement for Cameron Redpath. Perhaps that is why, when asked if the campaign had been a difficult one for him personally, he answered in the negative.

“No, I wouldn’t say so,” he continued. “Obviously I would have liked more game time, but my main objective is I’m part of the team and I’ll try and do everything to help the team win. Everyone wants to play, I get that, and I do as well, but in the last few weeks a lot of my role has been preparing the team during the week, and preparing myself if I’m going to play on the weekend.

“But I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating, no. As long as you keep getting results, you won’t get frustrated, and I’ll do everything I can when I’m back here in training and when I’m with the national team to put my hand up for selection.

“Every time you get the opportunity to play at Murrayfield, you definitely want to take it, and particularly when it’s at home to England. It was great to get out there  at a sold-out Murrayfield. It was brilliant.”  

Having been born and bred in Ireland – he qualifies for Scotland through both maternal grandparents – Healy is unusually well placed to assess the differences between rugby in the two countries. The former Munster and Ireland Under-20 player is well aware that the system in his native land has produced unparalleled success for that country, but he is also convinced that the national team for which he now plays is very much on the right track.

“People have picked my brains on it, within the Scottish squad and backroom staff and the same here. It’s no secret that Ireland do a lot of things well.

“We have two home clubs, they have four – which isn’t massive when you look at England or France, so they obviously do something well. But I would say we’re heading in the right direction, absolutely.

“I haven’t been here for that long, but from chatting to the boys there’s been a lot of cohesiveness [in the national team] the last few years in terms of how we want to play. Obviously coaching staff …  and then from the back of that we’re starting to get the fruits of that labour, if that makes sense.

“We’re not a million miles from what Ireland are doing. When [Ireland hed coach] Andy Farrell took over they probably struggled a little bit at the start, but now a few years down the line they’re starting to really flourish. 

“And it’s the same with us. A few years ago Scotland were probably going through a bit of a transition period, but stuck with it and now we’re seeing the fruits of that labour. So keep sticking with it and hopefully we’ll see where we end up.”  


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About Stuart Bathgate 1392 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

1 Comment

  1. An honest assessment from Healy. Glad that he seems positive despite the lack of international game time, but realistically he must know he will be the reserve 10 until Finn gets injured. He started with a bang at Edinburgh, probably their MOM in both first games then things have flatlined , he appears to be working hard to get his passing game up to the standard of his kicking.

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