RWC23: Ben Healy feels the benefit of Ireland to Scotland switch

Back-up stand-off discusses the lessons learned since throwing his lot in with Scotland at the start of this year

Ben Healy. Image: © Craig Watson -
Ben Healy. Image: © Craig Watson -

IT’S a long way from Tipperary and Ben Healy will never forget where he has come from. But as the former Munster stand-off sat in a cavernous press room in the Stade des Arboras – the home ground of Stade Niçois – as a Scotland squad member looking forward to Sunday’s World Cup opening weekend clash against South Africa, he was in no doubt about the path he has chosen.

“It’s really exciting, it flies by, it just all passes so quickly,” smiled the former Ireland under-20 playmaker who will provide back-up to Finn Russell in Scotland’s crucial No 10 slot during this World Cup. “Sometimes you get a chance to reflect but every week there’s a new challenge and something to look forward to and that’s what your focus is on.

“It is nice to look at the big picture every now and again to see where you have come from and where you are going,” he added. “For instance, this week we have the world champions in the opening game of a Rugby World Cup so each week there’s usually an individual focus but when I do look back it will be on a great time in my career.

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“I just turned 24 over the summer so I’m really excited to get stuck in with Scotland and with Edinburgh,” added Healy, who signed a two-year deal with the capital outfit in January and will link up with the club when he returns from the World Cup.

“There is good competition in the [Scotland] squad, it certainly wasn’t easy but I’m just delighted to be here and I can’t wait to get going.

“I suppose I’ve been challenged a lot by Gregor [Townsend], Brad [Mooar] and Pete [Horne],” he continued. “I’m blessed to have those three guys [who all played stand-off during their own careers] keeping a close eye on me from a ten perspective and showing me where I can grow.

“They were keen for me to challenge the line a lot more. In the 10 position at Munster, particularly last season, I think I got quite used to that and good at it towards the end, but it’s a bit different with Scotland and probably a lot more variety.

“So, I’m getting used to that and accepting those challenges, and that’s been the biggest thing I’ve developed. I wouldn’t say it’s been about being an out and out attacking threat but it’s about using all of the tools at your disposal.

“Attacking kicks, long kicks, high kicks, playing flat, playing deep, long passes and short passes, just a lot of variety.

“At Munster there was a really clear system which we worked on from the close season onwards, and by the end of it we had it nailed. Going into each game it was a lot of the same decisions over and over again, whereas there is more variety here.”

Perhaps wary of being perceived as disrespectful of Munster, an organisation which played such a crucial role in his development, Healy quickly clarified that he was referring to the difference between professional and international rugby as opposed to the difference between Irish and Scottish styles

“A lot of the teams that you face in the URC are all a bit similar whereas in international rugby you are playing against teams from every corner of the globe, so each week you are challenged differently,” he explained.

“And there have been different things that I’ve been able to bring in [to the Scotland game-plan]. A lot of it at the start of the Six Nations was about me getting used to what we do here. Once I got up to speed with that, I was able to add a different perspective.

“It’s an open and warm environment, they want players who want to challenge what we are doing as that’s the way we grow and get better each week. The boys and the coaches made it quite easy.”

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About David Barnes 4028 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

1 Comment

  1. Would it be an interesting tactical ploy for Gregor to give Ben Healy the opening 40-50 minutes against the South Africans – move them around with that rather big boot of his and then have Finn come off the bench to orchestrate a final phase push. Playing South Africa in the right parts of the pitch is what is key and being in touching distance with 20-25 minutes to play. Playing in the wrong areas of the pitch will just enable the South African power game to come to the fore and cost us points in a period that we want to remain on par with them. Just a thought as I think Healy is a class act as do many rugby friends from Ireland.


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