Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 28 September 2021

Upbeat: Heaslip the embodiment of current high spirit in Irish rugby

‘I think lads are going to be giddy and excited’ says a giddy and excited Jamie Heaslip.

Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

IRISH RUGBY IS in a happy place right now. Munster finished their Heineken Cup pool with a 100% record, Leinster are second seeds, only narrowly behind the southern province with five wins and a draw from their six games.

Ulster too, went through the baptism of fire at Clermont, which every team aspiring to sit at europes top table must, and came out the other side a better, more battle-hardened outfit.

Even Connacht had a good week; finally chiselling out that first elusive  ’W’ into their results sheet since September.

In Dublin today, Jamie Heaslip was the man to personify Irish rugby’s current buoyancy. Even if his good mood had as much to do with a day off from the sport as it did with Ireland’s provincial success.

“Come over here if ye want a bit of craic!” he bellowed before sitting down with the assembled press and getting asked whether his focus currently lay with Leinster or Ireland, “I’m on my day off, so I’m just me today.” He beamed.

Heaslip is a self-confessed evader of the oval ball game when in a social setting: you won’t catch him getting up early to have a Super XV breakfast or overloading his Sky+ box with endless action from behind the red button. So, if he can’t wipe the smile off his face after a landmark weekend for the provinces then you can rest assured that spirit and confidence is riding high all across the island.

“We have two weeks til the first game.” Said the back row ahead of this evening’s trip down to Limerick where he will join Ireland’s pre-tournament camp, “I think lads are going to be giddy and excited. It’s always a good couple of days when we meet up first.”

“The lads are always bubbling along, some of them give out to me saying ‘what the hell am I taking’ I’m so positive all the time. But yeah, it’s a good boost for all the lads, we’ve two clubs having home quarter finals. Ulster have to go away, but they’ve shown at the weekend that they can definitely bring it when they’re away.”

Heaslip, 28, has plenty of reason to be confident. A dip in form was only ever disappointing against his own high standards, but the swell has begun to touch that high water mark once again. The challenge now for him and about 21 other Irish internationals will be to sustain those performance levels during the transition back into a green jersey.

“It’s not as straightforward as people think (transferring club success to international) – but we just have to pick the best parts, blend it all together and hopefully get the right results. You know, instead of having a couple of months to do it with your club, you’ve got to do it in two weeks. But i’m looking forward to it - I’m quietly confident.”

Not that he is taking anything for granted, sitting in a back room of Temple Bar’s Morgan Hotel, the bridge of his nose bearing a fresh scar, the number eight is fully aware of what is required once he crossed the white line for his country. He feels that the Heineken Cup is the closest you can come to an international test standard, but there is nothing quite like the real thing.

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“The main difference between Pro12, European Cup and international rugby is just time. The time you have on the ball is cut down and you’ve just gotta be able to execute. You might only get, in an international, maybe two opportunities to score a try and you’ve gotta be able to take them. As opposed to getting four or five (chances) in the European Cup and you’d score two of them.”

“On the flip side of that, teams will punish you in the blink of an eye in international rugby – you just have to look back at the quarter final against Wales: we were tipping away, getting back in the game and we make two mistakes. Boom, two tries and they’re away, able to control it and play territory from then on.”


All that is for another day though, today despite being ready to answer the call, the excitement of a succesful European weekend was still lingering in the air and Heaslip had mixed feelings about the quarter final draw. He agreed that Ulster are probably best avoided. But as he pictures the big April weekend that seems so far ahead, he just can’t help feel that he will be missing out somehow.

“That’s going to be some day!” he said about Ulster’s newly scheduled trip to Limerick, “It’s gonna be hoppin down there, it’d be great to be involved in a game like that. We experienced playing Munster in two semi finals of the Heineken Cup and it’s electric. It’s just buzzing – the banter in the week coming into it.”

While it’s all kicking off in Limerick, Leinster will experiencing yet another big day at the Aviva. With Wales, Italy and Scotland all visiting Dublin 4 before the Cardiff Blues do, the ground is certain to be well versed in hosting a carnival.

Let’s just hope the big smiles keep on coming.

Jamie Heaslip was speaking as brand ambassador for PUMA

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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