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Lions match-up: Ben Alexander v Cian Healy

  
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7/12/2012
By ARU Media Unit


With the 2012 international Test season now complete attention turns to the Qantas Wallabies next Test, the British & Irish Lions in Brisbane on Saturday 22 June. 

The 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour has been 12 years in the making so the thought of which players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales’ will make the journey down under to face the cream of Australia’s crop is becoming more and more pertinent. 
 
Over the past few weeks rugby.com.au has profiled several mouthwatering potential matchups for the 2013 Tour and this week we take a look at the formidable position in the front row, Prop, with a head-to-head analysis of two forward powerhouses, Australia’s Ben Alexander and Ireland’s Cian Healy. 
 
The question of who comes out on top when these two crouch, touch and set for the 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour is too close to call with this week’s match up one of the closest and hardest to pick yet.  
 
 
Cian Healy
 
Educated at Belvedere College S.J. in Dublin where he was an Ireland Schools representative player, Cian Healy featured in Ireland’s cup winning side as a hooker in the IRB Under 18 World Cup in 2005. He then played as a prop in the following year’s IRB Under 19 World Cup for Ireland, before becoming a member of the 2007 Ireland Under-30 Grand Slam winning squad. 
 
Having successfully earned himself a Leinster Academy contract, Healy made his senior debut for the side in their final home game of the 2006/07 season when he ran on as a replacement. 
 
He won a Magner’s League winners’ medal with Leinster during the 2008/09 season where his ability at loose-head really shone. Under Leinster’s then Coach, and newly appointed NSW Waratahs’ Coach, Michael Cheika, Healy started in the Heineken Cup semi-final against Munster and final against the Leicester Tigers. 
 
His role in the forward pack was said to have provided a pivotal advantage for his side. The same year he was named in Ireland’s extended 2009 Six Nations squad he was also part of the Ireland A side to win the Churchill Cup and made his International debut for Ireland in against Australia at Croke Park that November.
 
Following his debut, Healy quickly confirmed his starting place in the Ireland squad, further enhancing his reputation during Ireland’s defeat of South Africa. In 2011 Healy enjoyed a hugely successful year which included another Heineken Cup winners’ medal with Leinster, an extended two year contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union and a start in all four matches or Ireland’s 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign. His performance during Ireland’s 16-6 win over the Qantas Wallabies during the pool phase was so impressive he duly awarded man-of-the-match. 
 
On his return from the World Cup Healy featured in the Aviva Stadium league win over Munster capping off an impressive 2011.
 
This year, while he has shared his loose-head duties for most of the season, he was called on to start in the vital semi-final and final of the Heineken Cup where he successfully crossed the line for his maiden try, again helping Leinster to a third Heineken Cup victory in four seasons. 
 
The Dublin forward is a strong and versatile player with a powerful presence in the scrums and has a great ability to give Ireland the edge in games against top-class opponents.
 
 
Ben Alexander
 
Ben Alexander attended the Knox School in Sydney before joining the ACT Brumbies Academy in 2008. Alexander’s rise to fame came quickly, winning his maiden Super Rugby Cap and Test Cap all in the same year. 
 
Prior to Canberra he proved a promising Australian age-grade representative playing for the Western Sydney Rams in the 2007 Australian Rugby Championships and the Bedford Blues in England’s National Division One competition.
 
Less than six months after his call up to the ACT Brumbies in the 2008 Super Rugby tournament Alexander made his debut, running on as a replacement for Australia against France in Sydney in June.
 
In November the same year he made his first ever start at Test level against Italy in Pedova, an amazing achievement considering it was the first time he had ever started in any Test or Super Rugby match in his professional career.
 
Better known for his work at loose-head during his first season, Alexander made the successful switch to tight-head in 2009 when he succeeded Australia’s most capped prop, Al Baxter. His impact in the new tight-head role made such an impact that he finished the year as one of just four players to feature in all 14 of the Qantas Wallabies Tests.
 
Having cemented his starting role in the Qantas Wallabies side, Alexander also reaffirmed his place in Super Rugby, starring in every match during the 2009 season and crossing the line for three tries for the Brumbies. 
 
In 2010 Alexander overcame a serious knee ligament injury to score his very first Test try against Wales during the Spring Tour.
 
Alexander’s development has continued to progress, with Coach Robbie Deans naming him in the starting side for all four Spring Tour matches in 2010. He kept his place in Australia’s 2011 winning Tri-nations side and made six appearances in the Rugby World Cup in the same year. 
 
Since making his Test debut in 2008 Alexander has become a constant presence for the Qantas Wallabies, missing just four Test matches since his 2010 injury.
 
One of the unique qualities of the steadfast prop is his ability to score tries. In 2010 he was named top try-scorer of the year for the ACT Brumbies after managing to cross the line seven times during the season. He has three tries to his name from 48 international Test appearances, including one five-pointer against the Springboks in Perth that earned him the 2012 Try of the Year Award at this year’s John Eales Medal.
 
His versatility as a forward has seen him appear regularly on both sides of the scrum, which has undoubtedly assisted his record of selection. Coupled with his mobility around the field and prowess with the ball in hand, there’s no doubt he’s a huge contender in the front row for Australia up against the British & Irish Lions. 
 
 
With three years additional experience and 13 more Test Caps to his name, Alexander could be considered to have the upper hand in the international arena compared to his younger counterpart Healy. Others would argue that Healy has youth on his side, but with only a 5 kilogram difference in their weight and a mere 4 centimetres difference in their height there isn’t much between the two talented front rowers.
 
Both made their international debut in their home towns, and whilst Ben Alexander has scored more tries than the Irish forward in his Rugby career, Healy has slightly more experience when it comes to being part of a winning side. 
 
Having both played in the position of tight and loose-head prop their versatility is unquestionable, as is their dependability having both been relied on with starting and regular roles in their respective international sides from early in their careers.
 
The battle between the two front rowers, should they meet during next year’s 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour, will provide yet another sensational head-to-head clash that no Rugby fan will want to miss in Australia next year.  
 
Tickets to the Tour that’s been 12 Years In The Making will go on sale across Australia at 9:00am on Monday 18 February local time, for more information visit www.rugby.com.au.