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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 21 November, 2019

'It's what European rugby's all about': Heaslip relishing intensity of pool decider with Wasps

Jamie Heaslip speaks briefly about his shoulder (and breakfast plans) before today’s crunch tie.

IGNORE THE ICE pack, forget the difficult days Leinster have experienced this season and don’t even think about the consequences of losing a second consecutive game in England.

Jamie Heaslip after the game Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

As ever, Jamie Heaslip is firmly focused on the immediate future and the precautionary ice on show after the win over Castres has ensured that he is fresh and raring to go for this afternoon’s pool decider against Wasps in Coventry (1pm BT Sports).

“I’m A1,” nods the captain. “Matty had it in his head to get me off [against Castres]. I don’t know what he was thinking, something crazy.

“I’m enjoying getting a little bit of pampering from the lads in the medical room.”

It was a conversation with one such unsung hero from the Leinster backroom team that set the tone for the number eight after Thursday’s training session in the RDS – the last intense hit-out before winding up for the Ricoh Arena.

“I was talking to one of the physios on the sidelines as we were walking in from training and he says: ‘are you looking forward to the game?’

These are the games you play for. It’s what European Rugby’s about. It’s winner takes all. If you had offered us this position when the groups were named I’d have said, ‘yeah’.

“Down to the last game, away from home against a quality side. That’s what European rugby’s about. We pay them the respect they’re due, that they’re owed and they’ll be focusing on us and hopefully we’ll go over there and get the outcome we deserve.”

So the equation is a simple one for Leinster: win, and they advance to a home Champions Cup quarter final. Lose, and the ‘as it stands’ table will get a good staring at when the broadcasters pop it up at five-minute intervals.

Typically, Heaslip insists he’ll be content to take on whatever form a quarter-final might take. So long as Leinster are in it.

Jamie Heaslip Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“From a support point of view, there is a real difference. From our own mindset, it’s no different to this game – we’re in a knock-out situation and it’s knock-out footy – it doesn’t really matter.

“I’m sure the business side of the building would love a home [quarter] and a home semi and stuff like that, but we’re more focused on a win and we get the fruits of our labour if we get the win on Saturday.”

To get the job done, Matt O’Connor has resisted the temptation to bring the experienced Mike Ross back into the starting line-up. Instead Tadgh Furlong, though not in the Six Nations squad, deputises for tighthead Marty Moore.

The only two changes from the thrashing of Castres come behind Moore in the pack. There Kane Douglas and Dominic Ryan are named at second row and blindside with Mike McCarthy and Jack Conan dropping to the replacements bench.

Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young has also made two changes, though both are enforced to an extent. The major blow for Young was injury to powerful Samoan centre Alapati Leiua who is replaced in the centre by Ben Jacobs. A ‘knock’ sustained by Kearnan Myall in the win over Harlequins sees the lock swap into James Gaskell’s place on the bench.

The threat remains out wide for the hosts, where the flying Tom Varndell and Christian Wade promise to punish the slightest slip with their ability to skin covering defenders.

Leinster will aim to maintain as much structure as possible on the game so that it’s played at a controllable pace. As with any lunchtime kick-off, the hosts will be attempting to get the crowd off their feet and into the game sooner rather than later. For Heaslip however, it’s nothing more than a time of day.

There’s pros and cons to it I suppose. A lot of guys really like a 1 o’clock kick off because you’re up, you’re out of bed and have your breakfast. You’re out the door playing rugby before you know it. You don’t have that long day before a long day of  half seven kick off and thinking about it an twiddling your thumbs.

“It suits me fine. I’ll have a nice big breakfast and roll into it. Once you hit that four hour mark before a game, it’s all the same  routine no  matter what time of the day it is. It just means I’ll get one less feed. I just have to eat a whole lot more on Friday which is fine by me.”


15. Rob Miller
14. Christian Wade
13. Elliot Daly
12. Ben Jacobs
11. Tom Varndell
10. Andy Goode
9. Joe Simpson
1. Matt Mullan
2. Edd Shervington
3. Lorenzo Cittadini
4. Bradley Davies
5. James Gaskell
6. Ashley Johnson
7. James Haskell (Capt)
8. Nathan Hughes

16. Carlo Festuccia
17. Simon McIntyre
18. Jake Cooper-Woolley
19. Kearnan Myall
20. Guy Thompson
21. Ed Jackson
22. Alex Lozowski
23. Andrea Masi


15. Rob Kearney
14. Fergus McFadden
13. Luke Fitzgerald
12. Ian Madigan
11. Dave Kearney
10. Jimmy Gopperth
9. Eoin Reddan
1. Michael Bent
2. Sean Cronin
3. Marty Moore
4. Devin Toner
5. Kane Douglas
6. Dominic Ryan
7. Jordi Murphy
8. Jamie Heaslip (Capt)

16. Richardt Strauss
17. Jamie Hagan
18. Tadhg Furlong
19. Mike McCarthy
20. Jack Conan
21. Isaac Boss
22. Gordon D’Arcy
23. Darragh Fanning

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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