Ben Healy lauded as ‘excellent’ as first Scotland start impresses Gregor Townsend

Scotland fly-half Ben Healy against Italy. Credit: Alamy

Scotland fly-half Ben Healy against Italy. Credit: Alamy

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has lauded the performance of Ben Healy after the fly-half starred in their Rugby World Cup warm-up victory over Italy.

Healy, who was making his first Test start in the number 10 shirt after switching allegiances from Ireland, was named player of the match at Murrayfield.

The 24-year-old slotted 10 points and had a hand in two of Scotland’s three tries as they came out on top against the Azzurri, winning 25-13 on home soil.

Praise for Healy

Healy had already enjoyed a taste of international rugby when he played off the bench against Italy in the Six Nations, but shone as a starter on Saturday.

The former Munster star has certainly done his hopes of making Scotland’s Rugby World Cup squad not harm at all, as Townsend hailed his performance.

“I thought he was excellent,” said the head coach. “To play at 10 you need to have a confident temperament, you need to be calm when things aren’t going well for you, and he showed both of those.

“His kicking was outstanding. Those spiral kicks, you could sense the crowd thinking, ‘ooft, we don’t often see this’. On a couple of them, it changed us winning a penalty in the 22 and maybe getting to the halfway line to actually being in their 22.

“He delivered at the end there with two good passes that led to Ollie Smith making the break and Cam Redpath putting away Josh Bayliss (for the third try).”

It wasn’t just Healy who impressed Townsend as two-try wing Darcy Graham also stood out, with the coach delighted to see him return from injury in style.

“It was great that he got a game (for Scotland),” said Townsend. “He missed the Six Nations and we just need to get him and the back three more ball.

“He didn’t need to do much for his scores, but it shows his instinct for the try-line. Especially the second one, he still has to finish that, but it was created by a solid scrum, a really good carry by Stafford McDowall.

“The first one was a solid lineout maul then a really good kick from Ben Healy. That’s sometimes the way for wingers, but Darcy can create other things with his footwork and pace.”

Scotland will now prepare for back-to-back warm-up games against France before their Rugby World Cup starts against reigning champions the Springboks.

“There’s a lot around the World Cup squad selection but really the important thing is to get the team out there to play these big games so we go into the South Africa with a team that’s gelled together and played in big games,” said Townsend.

“France are hosting the World Cup and they’re full of confidence so we’ll be putting out as strong a team as possible over the next two weeks and the way Darcy’s played for us in the last few seasons, he’s obviously going to be very much in the mix for that.”

Decisions to be made

Townsend gave several fringe players an opportunity against Italy and was asked if any performances had altered his thinking with regard to finalising his squad.

“I’d need to have a deeper look at it,” he said. “Games will obviously weigh heavily on our selection discussions but we’ve trained for seven weeks now, and what players have done in training is really important.

“Sometimes, it just might not go your way in a game. We’ve got to understand that too.

“I was really pleased with the bench. To come on and make an impact in the first game of the season, a Test match, a lot of credit goes to them.”

READ MORE: Rugby Championship: Five takeaways from Springboks v Los Pumas as Argentina rue a missed opportunity

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