IRELAND CAPTAIN JAMIE HEASLIP was awestruck by the impact of his emerging teammates as they ransacked Fiji and left them without a solitary point.
Craig Gilroy grabbed the headlines, and the man-of-the-match award, for his hat-trick but huge positives emerged in the form of performances by Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Sean Cronin and Iain Henderson.
“I was quite proud of the performance of the squad,” said Heaslip at the post-match press conference.
“It was a privilege to lead out a side that was full of such an enthusiastic bunch of guys.
“We talked all week about focusing on our roles and getting the details right. I said during the week that we have been training really well and, against Fiji, we played how we trained.
“We didn’t get any return last week [against South Africa] but I was quite proud to see the return we got this week.”
A blank ledger
Having shipped 170 points on their losing run of five games, Heaslip was delighted that his side kept a wounded Fijian side at bay for 80 minutes.
“I’m more pleased with that than the amount of tries we scored, to be honest,” he said.
It is really hard in international rugby, to be able to shut a team out and give them no scores at all. That zero was … I’m more proud of that than the scores. It would have been really easy to take the foot off the gas coming into that last quarter but credit to the lads for not doing so.
“Fiji kept the pressure on and had a good bit of ball near our line but guys stepped up, put their bodies on the line and stepped up at pretty significant times.”
Heaslip added, “We’ve talked a lot about owning that jersey for a day and even though it wasn’t a full Test, for some of the younger guys, they really stepped up to the mark as if it was a full international. They did the jersey proud.”
Whether coach Declan Kidney opts to reward the promising, and mostly Ulster-based, stars next week is another matter but Heaslip declares that they have given everything that was required for a morale-boosting win.
He added, “We’re not going to let it go to our heads as we know we’ve got a big test on the horizon.”