Rugby World Cup 2011
Healy out to continue meteoric rise
ESPNscrum Staff
October 7, 2011
Ireland prop Cian Healy receives the man of the match award, Australia v Ireland, Rugby World Cup, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, September 17, 2011
Healy and Ross have formed a formidable partnership in Ireland's front-row © Getty Images

Ireland prop Cian Healy has revealed that "insulting" criticism of their front row has propelled them onto reaching the knockout stages of the World Cup.

The Irish scrum was an area of weakness until Mike Ross became first choice tight-head during this year's Six Nations, resulting in a dramatic change of fortunes. Healy, Ross and Rory Best are now capable of matching any side at the set piece and claimed their most pleasing scalp yet when they demolished Australia's scrum in Auckland last month.

"As a whole the front row are in a very good place. We've worked extremely hard to get where we are," said Healy. "It was insulting in the past when people said that we weren't a reliable unit and that we couldn't give our top-class backs what they wanted.

"It's motivational when people talk about you in those terms. As a unit we took it personally. It's not nice being told you're not good at what you do, that some of the best backs in the world can't play because they don't have the ball.

"It was a heads-down situation, let's get on with it. (Scrum coach) Greg Feek came in and Mike Ross really stood up and took hold of the front row unit. The scrum has started to turn into much more of a force for us and it's something we're pretty proud of now."

Ireland are hoping to reach the semi-finals for the first time when they face Wales at Wellington Regional Stadium tomorrow. They have been in magnificent form throughout the World Cup, attacking their key pool games against Australia and Italy with controlled ferocity.

British & Irish Lions captain Paul O'Connell believes Irish teams are at their best when they feed off their emotions. "The occasion is massive and very little needs to be said," said O'Connell. "But at the same time I think we're better when we're passionate and emotional about how we play.

"We've been there for the last few weeks. Hopefully there are three more games left and guys don't have any problems raising it week on week. It's quite similar to a Lions tour in that sense. You throw everything into the hat for those few weeks and you go as hard as you can.

"That's what we've been doing so far and it's worked for us."

O'Connell insists Ireland's superior experience banked during knockout games with Munster and Leinster and the 2009 Grand Slam-winning year will prove beneficial. "The more times you've been there, the more times you find yourself doing the right things at the right time," he said. "That's hopefully where we are with guys who have been at this stage of big competitions before.

"Heineken Cup, Celtic League and Grand Slam matches...all that experience contributes to these big games. If you've been there before and pulled through, producing the big performance to win, it certainly helps."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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