IT is far too early to say if Ben Healy is the missing piece whose arrival in the Scottish capital will complete the Edinburgh jigsaw, but new ‘senior’ coach Sean Everitt did acknowledge earlier this week that he feels fortunate to be be laying out his vision for how the team should approach the game with the Tipperary born and raised stand-off now occupying the key decision-making position.
Healy’s recruitment was announced six month’s before Everitt’s appointment in July, so it is accident rather than design which has brought the two men together, but it hasn’t taken the pair long to get on the same hymn sheet.
Less than a week after linking up with his new club for the first time following the end of Scotland’s World Cup campaign, Healy was entrusted with the No 10 jersey for Saturday’s URC season opener at the Dragons, and while the team’s performance in that game lacked the polish which will be required if Edinburgh are to be serious contenders for silverware come the business end of the campaign, their playmaker’s composure, game-management and goal-kicking was key to a hard-earned 17-22 win.
“I think we kicked more on Saturday than Edinburgh have kicked for a while but it certainly paid off in the end,” said Everitt. “The line speed that the Dragons brought on Saturday was hard for us to handle and Ben really helped us with his kicking. He managed the game really well on Saturday in difficult conditions.”
For his part, Healy recognised that his integration into the team remains a work in progress but he paid tribute to his new team-mates for helping make the process as smooth as he could have hoped for.
“It will probably take a little bit of time,” reflected the 24-year-old. “We’re not there yet, I wouldn’t say, but we’re getting there. It’s been quick in terms of how I’ve settled in – the lads have made it very easy.
“In terms of game-plan, at the weekend it was quite straightforward what we wanted to do, and same again going forward to this weekend. 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.
“It’s important to get those wins when things aren’t necessarily going your way or you’re making a few mistakes here and there. I think it’s a really good sign in the team to come away from there with a win. I lost there the last time I played there [with Muster last September], so I was really happy to come away with the win.”
Edinburgh centre Mark Bennett was full of admiration after Saturday’s game when discussing how the stand-off commanded his backline, but Healy indicated that he was not quite as on top of key details – such as players’ names – as he made it look.
“Names took a little while to tick off, yeah,” he smiled. “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.
“So [it’s about] trying to paint the picture that I know what’s going on and I have a clear understanding of how we want to play and what I want the men around me to do. So that’s what I was trying to do.”
“I’ve spoken to all the coaches, mainly probably Sean and Bob Chrystie [Edinburgh’s assistant attack and skills coach],” he added. “Sean more with our overall game-plan and Bob on our attack in terms of what exactly we want going forward. I’ve chatted to Sean about the adjustments he wants to make based on where Edinburgh has been over the past number of years.
“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.
“So, I wouldn’t say it’s been one thing that he’s focused on, it’s more us trying to be as complete as possible. But like I said, it won’t come straight away. You want to be peaking towards the end of the year. We’re building those steps at the moment.”
It was interesting to see Healy practicing drop-goals at the end of Monday’s training session, which he clearly believes can be another weapon in Edinburgh’s armoury, along with his razor-sharp accuracy off the tee which saw him slot 11 conversions from 11 attempts during Scotland’s 84-0 demolition of Romania at the World Cup (Edinburgh’s goal-kicking success rate last year was an unimpressive 62 percent).
“I came from a club where I had a really good skills coach in Pat Whelan [at Nenagh Ormond],” said Healy. “He’s worked with a number of good kickers [and] I had him for about ten years, 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.
“Come game day it’s pretty much all mental. But you need to have that bank of work behind you so you have confidence in what you’re doing.”
“[The drop-goals] is something that I just wanted to have as an option here going forward. It’s nice if things maybe aren’t going your way to have that option to be able to take three. It’s not necessarily something you always want to go to, but depending on what teams are giving you and where you think you can get after teams, it’s good to have in the back pocket.
“I think teams just feel like if you miss you’re giving the ball away, but I mean you’re still getting a 22 restart coming back at you. And things like wind and all this play into it – if they’re hitting a 22 into the wind, you’re getting it back [in a really dangerous position]. So even if you miss there’s still probably going to be a good outcome. All these things come into consideration. I just like to have it in the back pocket if I need to pull it out at any time.”