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Heaslip insisting Leinster 'in a good space' as he narrows focus to Ulster threat

The Leinster captain is repeating mantras of positivity as Leinster aim to go back to winning ways.

JAMIE HEASLIP IS not one for New Year’s resolutions.

He’s more a improve-every-day sort of man. He’s also a look-forward-never-back kind of man, a hyper-active and endlessly-positive-no-matter-what kind of man.

So while Matt O’Connor had to pick through the rubble of the inter-pro defeat to Munster again, the Leinster captain is refusing to look anywhere but straight ahead at the next challenge.

“I’m always the optimist, you know,” smiles the number eight.

Jamie Heaslip Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It’s probably too much coffee in the mornings. And I bring that in to the lads as well and sprinkle it around. The group is in good shape, a lot of confidence. Through injuries a lot of guys have got experience as well and that’s building up the strength in the squad.”

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Along with their league position (now sixth thanks to Connacht’s win, but just three points off Ulster in the playoff race) and their three wins from from four in Europe, that fortification of the depth chart is a source of positivity that Leinster continue to go back to sip from.

On the field, there has rarely been such a plentiful supply. So despite Heaslip declaring his sunny disposition, the back row seemed slightly tetchy when asked about the need for the ‘attitude adjustment’ coming after the defeat in Thomond Park.

“Well I wasn’t there,” says the captain, “but the boys talked about it. My head is all about this week.”

Asked how easy it is to adjust intensity from one week to the next, he repeated for emphasis: ”My mindset and thought on it is that I’m training for this week.

“I wasn’t around last week. I don’t know where the mindset was.

“The chat was, talking to the lads, that it was good. This week we’re in a good space. We reviewed the game like any other game and we’re focused on beating the guys that are ahead of us in the league.”

To do that, Heaslip’s focus will be drawn chiefly to the Ulster set-piece. Negate their scrum and line-out at the RDS, and the dangerous strike-runners in the back-line will have minimal opportunities to threaten.

Jamie Heaslip and Robbie Diack Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“They’ve good a very good pack and a set-piece that they launch off,” outlines Heaslip, “so as a pack we’ve got to negate that ability to consistently launch off their set-piece – scrum, line-out and using their maul.

“They way they play [with] a lot of big gain-line winners – Nick Williams is another – we’ve got to watch these guys, do our video on them and just do our work on their strike plays when they’re bringing people like Tommy [Bowe] into the line, Gilly [Craig Gilroy].

“The type of guys you have to get on the ground early because if they get any sort of space, they’ve very dangerous feet, very quick and surprisingly strong – for backs – so we’ve got to do our homework on those kind of guys.”

Good space

True to his word, Heaslip is much more talkative on the subject of the next challenge facing Leinster. When the subject swings back to the emotional state of the squad, the 31-year-old battens the hatches back down around his messages of positivity to shoot down the suggestion that the squad may be getting ever so slightly frustrated with moves and combinations that are just a fraction away from clicking.

“I think we’re in a pretty good space,”  he says to set the template.

“We’re fifth in the league, only three points behind Ulster who we’re playing this week. We’re in a very good position in Europe. We’ve got a lot of confidence off the back of that, we’re in a very good place.”

When an almost identical question follows, he meets it with an almost identical answer.

“No, because we’re in a good space.
“We’re in a very good space. We’re pretty similar to where we were last year, and in a better position than we have been in previous years. The collective strength is pretty good, the mindset is taking confidence from that and knowing that you’ve turned a corner, you’re at the midway point in the season: every game just gets bigger and bigger now at this time of the year.

“Lads think the first half of the season went by quick. I’ll tell ya, when every game is big it’s over in the blink of an eye.”

Little wonder he’s refusing to look back. There’s no time for that.

Originally published at 08.30

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Sean Farrell

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