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Dublin: 7 °C Friday 18 October, 2019
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Heaslip raring to go after 'longest ever' pre-season

The Leinster captain feels stronger than ever after nine weeks of training.

Heaslip will return to the Leinster side this Saturday against the Scarlets.
Heaslip will return to the Leinster side this Saturday against the Scarlets.

THE START OF every Pro12 season is both an exciting and frustrating time for fans of the Irish provinces, as the excitement at seeing the teams back in action is balanced by the scarcity of Ireland internationals on show in the early rounds.

To that end, Leinster fans will warmly welcome the return of captain Jamie Heaslip against the Scarlets this weekend, and the number eight is itching to get back on the field after a tough, but welcome elongated pre-season.

“I had a nine-week pre-season which is probably my longest ever,” Heaslip said.

“I have been lucky that I haven’t really been injured during the season for the last few years but I haven’t had the chance to make big strength and muscle mass gains. But I am glad to be finished, because doing fitness in the altitude tent is absolutely disgusting and I was getting sick of lifting five times a week.”

Before talking about his return to the Leinster side, Heaslip was asked about the four-year deal that will bring Johnny Sexton back to Leinster. Heaslip pointed out that the province did have success without the Ireland international, but added that bringing Sexton home will allow the team to compete for greater glory.

He also talked about what the length of Sexton’s contract could mean the next time a big star sits down to talk with the IRFU.

“I’ve always thought of it as the longer [the contract] the better,” Heaslip said.

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“It gives you security and you don’t have to worry about it. You can just get on with your job. Some guys might say ‘I’d love a four year’, but that is what negotiations are all about. The IRFU might only offer you two or three years. That is on an individual basis.”

Australian international second row Kane Douglas will link up with Leinster in the next week or two, and Heaslip is excited for his impending arrival. Douglas will sit across from the Leinster captain in the dressing room, and Heaslip is looking forward to getting to know him off the pitch, and to learning a thing or two from him on it.

“It is always good when you have players of a great standard of rugby around you to push you in training and in the gym,” Heaslip said.

“I always think it is great to have someone come from a completely different league and in this case, the southern hemisphere. If you pick up one thing, then that is one thing you never had before.”

The Scarlets match on Saturday will be the first Pro12 game of the season at the RDS and Heaslip is relishing the prospect of getting back into the fray in front of his home fans. He gave special mention to the roar that erupts from the stand when away teams run out of the tunnel, but was also wary of the potential threat posed by the visitors.

“The fans call it the D4tress and when those away teams come out of the changing rooms by the terrace, they are let know all about it,” Heaslip said.

“We take pride in playing at home and having a fortress mentality. But it is easier sometimes when you have that backs-against-the-wall mentality and we have used that before when we have gone places where we haven’t had a lot of success.”

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