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'It doesn't take a lot to get that kid going': Jamie Heaslip sheds light on Seán O'Brien's resurgence

Heaslip suggested the Lions players would head out tonight, “but they won’t be going OUT out.”

Image: David Davies

JAMIE HEASLIP ISN’T overly surprised to see his fellow Leinster and Ireland back row Seán O’Brien excel on this summer’s Lions tour.

The 30-year-old Tullow Tank has been one of the standout performers across the two Tests, dotting down in last weekend’s 30-15 defeat in Auckland and starring once more in today’s victory in Wellington. However, unlike his fellow Irish internationals in today’s match day squad, he had never finished on the winning side versus New Zealand, featuring in Ireland’s 60-0 drubbing five years ago as well as their near miss in 2013, but missing November’s iconic victory through injury.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Off The Ball, Heaslip explained how O’Brien, for all his injury woes, had returned to form so effectively in a Lions jersey.

“He hasn’t played a lot of rugby in the last two years, three years,” he said. “And he didn’t play a lot of rugby this year. He doesn’t have a lot of miles on the clock. He looked after himself and made sure he was ready for this tour.

It doesn’t take a lot to get that kid going. His game is such that he can shine in all sorts of conditions. So, if it’s a game where it’s dry and it’s open, he’ll get his hands on the ball and he’ll play. He’s so strong and his centre of gravity is so low…just the bulk, you know what I mean? He’s bloody hard to tackle. Trust me, I’ve been training with the man for the last 10 years – I know all about it! And he’s got skills as well to play and offload.

“But then when it’s a wet game, he’s in there – he’s like a groundhog on the ball, like. And when he gets on it he’s like a tick, man. He’s dug in. He’s not coming out.

“So he’s able to adapt his game no matter what. I’d say he’s very happy with how he’s playing, and by all reports, he’s having a great time down there!”

Heaslip also revealed that he had spoken to a few of the victorious Lions players shortly after their 24-21 victory at Westpac Stadium, and explained that in spite of the euphoria surrounding their win, they were aware there is much to be worked on ahead of next weekend’s decisive Test back in Eden Park.

“I think they were actually the side that attacked more, and they got the rewards for it in such crap conditions. I’m delighted for them. I’m sure they’re not going to get too carried away – I was talking to one or two of the boys on the way in [to studio], and they seemed to have their head on. They know they were playing 14 men for 46 minutes if you include that yellow card that they got. They know that, and they know about all the penalties.

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“They are going to look back and the penalties, the discipline… I mean, what was it, 13 penalties or something like that? 10 kickable! And you’ve got to remember [Beauden] Barrett missed a couple of kicks where you could argue it’s another six or nine points there.

The sense I get from them is that the lads aren’t getting carried away, because the conditions were not great to play ball, which some people have said might have suited the Lions and not suited the All Blacks – although I’m sure they’ve played in rain before.

“But 14 men down, having been on a team where we’ve gone down to 14, it’s not easy. It’s a struggle, because if the team is smart, they’ll exploit space. And it took the Lions a while to find their footing a little bit, but they got rewarded for attacking. Their two tries were from them actually playing pretty wide and exploiting that space.”

As to whether the touring players would paint the town red in celebration tonight, Heaslip suggested they’d go out, “but they won’t be going OUT out.”

Source: The42 Rugby Show/SoundCloud

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