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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 19 October, 2018

Heaslip determined to stay shtum on back injury

The Leinster and Ireland back row does not wish to offer up information about his injury, and that leads to more questions and concerns.

Updated at 17.06

JAMIE HEASLIP IS injured. Sunday marked nine months since he last played rugby, Ireland’s defeat to Wales in Cardiff.

Aside from that? The Kildare man wasn’t keen to offer much in the way of detail.

Any update on the prognosis? “Nope.”

Or an idea of when you might be back. “Nope.”

No deadlines or projections? “Nope, nope.”

Heaslip is at Irishtown Stadium in Dublin 4, appearing alongside Dublin footballer Jack McCaffrey to help promote the Goal Mile, a Christmas run to help raise funds and awareness for the charity’s programmes over the developing world.

35__heaslip_mccaffrey_goal_90532024_480 Jamie Heaslip, right, with Jack MCaffrey at the launch of the Goal Mile. Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Not all of his answers were as abruptly short as the opening queries above, but the Leinster and Ireland number eight will turn 34 tomorrow and the problematic back injury becomes increasingly concerning with each week he has to sit out.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen had hoped to see Heaslip on the field of play in pre-season. The Naas man then reportedly underwent a second operation on his back in October, a report which was not contested by Leinster or the IRFU.

“Which operation?” Heaslip fires back the question by way of response.

The second one.

“Who said I had a second operation?  Who did?

“I’m not going to give you an answer on it.”

Are you definite you will return?

“I’m not giving you any answer. I’ve been very clear on my medical information. It’s private.”

Jamie Heaslip Heaslipi training with Leinster in early September. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

That’s Jamie Heaslip’s prerogative. He is not obliged to talk about anything he does not want to, but his answers lead to more questions.

The back is an immensely complicated area to get right once something goes wrong and, since the early weeks of the season, Leinster have consistently said that they are taking his recovery week-by-week.

Ireland coaches have been able to hold out hope that he may be available for the Six Nations and early 2018 was certainly target return date proposed by Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby during November – as well as Heaslip himself on The Rugby Pod a fortnight ago. Yesterday, he was not so clear.

You know, I’ll get back on the field when I get back on the field. That’s as best as I can give you an answer. I don’t mean to be hard on it, but medical information, I’ve been quite clear about (keeping it private). Return to play, I’ll be on the field when I’m fit and healthy.”

In the meantime, Heaslip will elaborate on how he has found himself watching more rugby than he previously would have permitted himself. So he has had ample time to watch Jack Conan take up the baton of the number 8 jersey ‘as a fan’.

“I think he’s going really well. Like every player he has work-ons, things he has to get better on, he knows that himself, he’s striving to get better,

“I think he’s playing some great rugby, as are a lot of back rows, not just in our club but around the country.

Jack Conan reacts at the final whistle Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“It’s a good place to be. The back row has been a competitive spot, in my career, we don’t seem to have a problem producing back rows that’s for sure. He knows that there’s competition within the squad and outside.

“He’s a guy full of ambition, but he knows one thing all the back rows teach each other is that it’s not easy to remain competitive in that spot for long periods of time, you’ve got to be a good pro, not just looking after yourself, looking at the whole game and what you can do better and how that fits in with other players.  And I think he’s doing that really well. I’m a big fan of Jack as a player and, more importantly, as a bloke.”

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