NEW IRELAND CAPTAIN Jamie Heaslip says he has the full support of his predecessor Brian O’Driscoll.
O’Driscoll, Ireland’s record try-scorer and captain from 2003 to 2012, admitted last week that he was”disappointed” to lose the official leadership.
However, with Heaslip always in close proximity for Leinster and Ireland, the two were always likely to discuss the changeover.
“I talked with Brian about (the captaincy).” Heaslip said on Monday. “He said he’s 100% behind me. He’s obviously such an influential player and leader in the squad, so it’s great to have his support.”
O’Driscoll will remain a key component of Declan Kidney’s international side as they look to rekindle the form that took them to a Grand Slam in 2009. Heaslip, speaking as a brand ambassador for Guinness, stressed that his job would be made easier by the presence of the potential double Lions captain among other players with vast experience at both Test and provincial level.
“To be honest there are so many leaders in the squad, so there will be no shortage of experienced players on the pitch.”
The 29-year-old added: “I’m very humbled by the chance to lead Ireland out in the Six Nations. It’s a fantastic tournament to play in and it will be special to lead such amazing players out onto the field.”
The day before last week’s announcement, Heaslip had told TheScore.ie he expected the ‘armband’ to be given to O’Driscoll. However, when the veteran centre spoke in an interview over Christmas, it appeared that the decision had been flagged to him well in advance.
“I’ve been involved in the team for the past 10 years,” O’Driscoll said last month, “but I haven’t ever been named captain for a full year. I’ve been made captain for a Six Nations and a summer tour and November series.”
However, his next sentences perhaps did convey the sense of a man not yet ready to step down.
“It’s still an ambition to be able to captain your country, irrespective of how long people – or indeed yourself – perceive you to play on for.
“It’s a massive honour and something that hasn’t dissipated any over the past 10 years.”
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