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'Savage' Heaslip back in Lions contention with vintage effort

The Ireland captain and wine connoisseur had Biarritz reeling at the RDS.

Jamie Heaslip tosses the ball aside after his second try.
Jamie Heaslip tosses the ball aside after his second try.
Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

THE OFFICIAL ERC statistics were emailed out at 5:42pm yesterday and they told a story that every person at the RDS, and watching on television, knew – Jamie Heaslip played a blinder.

The Ireland captain, with Kevin McLaughlin and Shane Jennings wading into breakdowns, cut loose in Leinster’s 44-16 semi-final win over Biarritz. Heaslip started his afternoon’s work with a superb try off a well-worked lineout move and finished it with a gashed knee and a fist clenched in victory celebration.

His direct opposite, the legendary Imanol Harinordoquy, may have been expected to outshine the Blues’ No.8 but by the end of the match he was kicking sideline markers into the crowd and playing the role of panto villain. Heaslip uncorked the 2008/09 vintage as he stalked all over the pitch, ran penalties from inside his 22 and showed the home support, with rapier tries, just why former Ireland winger Simon Geoghegan is his rugby role model.

The Kildare native made 15 ball carries for an astounding 124 metres and chipped in with 11 tackles, second only to Devin Toner [13]. Lions coach sent his forwards coach Graham Rowntree to watch the likes of Heaslip and Cian Healy while he was in France to monitor Paul O’Connell and Peter O’Mahony. ‘Gats’ can expect a glowing report on both Leinster men from the former England prop.

Healy goes on the charge against Biarritz. (©INPHO/Colm O’Neill)

Healy told TheScore.ie, “The lads played savage. Everyone, really, had a good game. They got their heads stuck in and did what they had to do. Everyone always says it but it is true, play your game and whatever comes after it, comes after it.” The prop added:

Jamie played savage. He was on the loose balls, he was strong off the pack [of the scrum], his all around game was very good today. He has shown how much of a professional he has been over the last while. His game is starting to pick up now and coming back to that top level.”

The only player that will know tomorrow that they are a British & Irish Lion for the tour to Australia will be the captain. The rest of the squad, 34 men, will find out like the rest of us on Tuesday morning at 11am.

Asked if he will be nervous ahead of the announcement, Healy responded, “The only time it has come into my mind [this year] has been when I’m talking to the media. I don’t like to think ahead.”

It is an admirable characteristic but Healy and Heaslip, despite criticism stemming from Ireland’s poor Six Nations, will not have to pack up their wash-bag until the end of May. There are some big challenges on their way before that.

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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