Stuart Lancaster Admits Cian Healy Plane Incident Was 'Avoidable'

BY Stephen Doyle 20:31 Monday 25 September 2017, 20:31 25 Sep 2017

Leinster prop Cian Healy - ©INPHO/Ryan Wilkisky

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster insisted today that no disrespect was shown to flight staff by Cian Healy but that last week's incident which led to the prop being ejected from a flight was 'avoidable'.

The news emerged last Monday that the Sunday flight carrying the Leinster squad and management from Port Elizabeth, where they had beaten Southern Kings in the Guinness PRO14, was delayed due to an incident over a laptop.

A report in the Irish Independent revealed that cabin crew had requested that the plane be turned around to return to the terminal when Healy was spotted reviewing the previous day's game on his laptop after passengers were told to stop using electronic equipment.

"The issue related to a misunderstanding around the use of a laptop during the approach to take off," confirmed the province in a statement.

"Cian disembarked the plane and took the next available flight to Cape Town with the same airline. Cian apologised sincerely to all concerned at the time for any inconvenience caused."

Lancaster was one of the coaching staff members that did not travel to South Africa but he confirmed that the player was not disciplined over the incident which he felt was blown a little out of proportion.

"It was made out to be a big thing," Lancaster said at today's media briefing at Leinster HQ.

"The reality was he watching the game on his computer in the lead up to the plane taking off and was unaware, because he had his headphones on, that the [flight] captain was stressing, 'shut your laptop'.

"There was two or three players [using laptops] and Cian just happened to be the guy at the time that the stewardess picked out. So, it was avoidable but I certainly don't think it was him being disrespectful or ignoring rules. He was just unaware of the stringent way they're applied in South Africa."

The suggestion was then made to Lancaster that the punishment might have seemed a little harsh.

"It is what it is. I mean, at the end of the day as soon as the [flight] captain made that decision then there was only going to be one outcome. The reality was he got on the next flight and he was with us soon enough.

"To the outside it looks like it's a big thing but internally we're disappointed to have put ourselves in that position but at the end of the day it didn't affect our preparations."

Everyone involved with the mini-tour will want to put it behind them pretty quickly following Friday night's shock defeat to Cheetahs and the visa issues which saw New Zealanders Isa Nacewa and Jamison Gibson-Park sent home, although the former did return to start the second match.

"I don't think anyone is making any excuses for losing against the Cheetahs, we got beaten fair and square," Lancaster replied when asked if Leinster were put on the back foot with regard to planning due to the rushed nature of the PRO14's inclusion of the new franchises.

"There's no doubt that being the first team to go there on a two-week tour and having the late notice, without doubt, put the whole preparation under pressure. Even just the logistics of trying to get all the players out to South Africa and then move them around South Africa with the number of flights that were available."

Lancaster recalled his experience of travelling to the southern hemisphere nation as head coach of England.

"With these touring parties you know months in advance. So you get the business class flights booked up. You get the boys in the right seats and then going to the right places.

"So it was late notice for Leinster. There's no doubt about it and that put pressure on the planning of the trip. But it doesn't excuse losing against the Cheetahs."

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