Ireland World Cup squad: ‘Devastating’ blow for Cian Healy as Andy Farrell names squad

Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher both named despite injury clouds as injury against Samoa costs Healy

It should, by rights, have been a joyous occasion, or at any rate a celebration of sorts. Alas, confirmation just five minutes beforehand that Cian Healy had been ruled out of his fourth World Cup cast something of a pall over a press conference to announce Ireland’s 33-man World Cup squad in their Shelbourne Hotel base.

Healy suffered a torn calf in Ireland’s 17-13 win over Samoa in a rain-swept Bayonne on Saturday night, and the sight of him cursing his luck and being unable to put any weight on his leg did not augur well.

The 125-times capped 35-year-old has been a freak of nature throughout his decorated career and had set his heart on making it to a fourth World Cup after the quarter-final defeats in 2011, 2015 and 2019. That manifested itself in the way he first reinvented himself as a backup tighthead two years ago and then even revisited his old school days as a non-throwing hooker in the win over Scotland in Murrayfield.

This also underlines what a loss the veteran will be, for his ability, versatility and popularity.


“He hasn’t made it, he’s just had a scan as we got off the plane and he’ll be out for a spell of time that won’t be right, unfortunately, for Cian and for us, certainly for the start of the competition,” confirmed Andy Farrell immediately after manager Mick Kearney had read out the 33 names.

“We’ll see how his rehab goes during it, you’d never know towards the back end if he could be a replacement or not. It’s devastating isn’t it? That’s sport, that’s life, that’s rugby.

“Cian’s big enough and old enough and experienced enough to be through these type of things before, I remember in 2013 on the Lions he got injured early and had to fly home. He’s experienced something like this and understands that these things happen. He’s devastated as we are for him.

“The prognosis is something between five, six to 10 weeks,” added Farrell. “How that rehab carries on is something that we’ll keep a track of as we go.”

“I only just found out literally five minutes ago,” said the captain Johnny Sexton, who has soldiered with Healy through much of their Leinster and Irish careers. “He has been through ups and downs in his career, he’s a very, very decorated player, a great player. We’re going to miss him.

“I’m gutted for him to miss this tournament. It has meant a lot to him in how he has prepared for it and how he has trained. So I’m gutted for him.”

This being Sexton’s first appearance in front of the media since the imposition of his three-match suspension which ruled him out of Ireland’s warm-up matches, the ensuing line of questioning perhaps also added to the sombre nature of the proceedings.

On a happier note, Sexton said he would be fit to lead Ireland in their opening game against Romania on Saturday September 9th, Stade de Bordeaux (2.30pm Irish time/3.30pm local time). While Healy cruelly misses out, Sexton, Conor Murray and Keith Earls will all play in their fourth World Cup.

As expected, Dan Sheehan and Ronan Kelleher have both been named along with Rob Herring despite injury clouds, and Farrell was clear-cut in stating that Kelleher will be fit for the Romanian game.

As expected, Farrell and his assistants have opted for an 18-15 split and three players in each specialist position. This means there are nine back five forwards, with Joe McCarthy making the cut, and with Ryan Baird and Tadhg Beirne offering lock/backrow options, the versatile Connacht backrower Cian Prendergast is one of five players in the 38-man squad in the French southwest this past week who misses out. So too do Tom Stewart, Ciaran Frawley and Jacob Stockdale.

“The toughest thing is that as a group of 42/43 players that’s been together for nine weeks over the summer, we don’t just grow as rugby players or as a rugby team, we grow socially as well. It’s always tough to drop anyone out of that type of squad,” said Farrell.

“It’s obviously difficult because you’re shattering somebody’s dream, but I would hope that through all campaigns you don’t let bad news become a shock.

“You’re constantly giving feedback to them, to let them know where they’re at and players are not stupid. They’ve always got a sense of where they’re at along the way.

“What I would say is that the reason it is difficult for myself to tell those five players the other day is that they made it very easy for me, their understanding that they’re all team players. There’s no selfishness in the group.

“If you have a look at everyone else naming their squads so early, the reason that happens is that they want to get to the 33 and make sure that they push everyone else on so there’s no disruptions along the way.

“We have none of that ever because of the quality of people we have. Their ‘team first’ people and that’s why it’s hard to shatter their dreams.”

Forwards (18)

Hookers: Rob Herring (Ulster), Ronan Kelleher (Leinster), Dan Sheehan (Leinster)

Props: Finlay Bealham (Connacht), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster), Jeremy Loughman (Munster), Dave Kilcoyne (Munster), Tom O’Toole (Ulster), Andrew Porter (Leinster).

Locks: Ryan Baird (Leinster), Tadhg Beirne (Munster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Joe McCarthy (Leinster), James Ryan (Leinster).

Backrows: Jack Conan (Leinster), Caelan Doris (Leinster), Peter O’Mahony (Munster), Josh van der Flier (Leinster).

Backs (15)

Scrumhalves: Craig Casey (Munster), Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster), Conor Murray (Munster).

Outhalves: Ross Byrne (Leinster), Jack Crowley (Munster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster).

Centres: Bundee Aki (Connacht), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster), Stuart McCloskey (Ulster), Garry Ringrose (Leinster).

Outside backs: Keith Earls (Munster), Mack Hansen (Connacht), Hugo Keenan (Leinster), James Lowe (Leinster), Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster).

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times