Jamie Heaslip trusts Ireland to overcome scrum worries

St Patrick’s Day has always tended to divide opinion, but no-one in Irish rugby circles remembers the national holiday from four years ago with anything other than horror given the misfortune that befell Declan Kidney’s side in Twickenham.
Jamie Heaslip trusts Ireland to overcome scrum worries

A scoreline of 30-9 only hinted at the embarrassment that accrued from a scrum that lost Mike Ross to injury and, with Tom Court forced into the unfamiliar surrounds of tighthead, coughed up all but six of the home team’s points in one form or another.

It’s a scenario that still seems all too vivid now, given events in Paris two weekends ago, when Guy Noves unleashed his first-choice front row on a tiring and depleted Irish pack and was rewarded for the tactic with a 10-minute pummelling at the setpiece and the try that turned the tie.

It’s hard to imagine Mike Ross or Cian Healy sat on a horse. And yet there is no doubt but the returning Leinster props carry a hint of the 7th Cavalry riding over the hill in the nick of time as Ireland seek to rebuild a scrum England will be keen to test for weaknesses.

Few Irish supporters would grumble at the offer of parity in that sector were it offered right now, but Jamie Heaslip is aiming higher. He spoke instead yesterday of the need for Joe Schmidt’s forwards “to enforce our own kind of dominance” on their counterparts.

“I’m very confident in our scrum,” said the Leinster No. 8. “We’ve probably got to be a bit more streetwise, I suppose, around it, but I’ve full confidence in it. It’s a massive part of the game. It’s probably the best platform to attack off.

“That’s why you’ve got to put so much time into it and so much effort into it, how you defend around it, especially five-metre scrums and stuff like that. You don’t want to give too many penalties away because refs have no problem giving a penalty try if you’re doing it.”

Conor Murray mentioned the phrase “fear factor” on Monday when speaking about the trip to Twickenham. Heaslip doesn’t speak that language, but then he is one of the dwindling few who knows what it is to beat them in London.

The last time was back in 2010, incidentally.

The foreword to this latest chapter has been dominated by England coach Eddie Jones with his ‘Aussie Rules’ jibe about Ireland’s kicking game. Here again, Heaslip gives short thrift, pointing out he doesn’t tend to put boot to ball all that much himself.

He can be hard to pin down that way. A routine suggestion that the return of Healy and Ross could help restore confidence to the scrum is batted back with an “in what way?” retort and he skirts around another theory England may well be the ultimate “tails-up” team.

“I don’t know. I’ve never really looked at it like that. They’re just a tough side to break down so if you give them scores, it’s hard to get scores from them. You might get ahead, but then they might just shut the wall and you might not get many more opportunities.

“You saw in the Italy game, it was pretty even up until the 50th, 55th minute. Then the game broke open and Italy were chasing against a very organised side.

“You have to have patience and confidence in your system. You have to trust in the system and the people around you.

“Then you just have to work bloody hard, on and off the ball.” Inspiration will be required as much as perspiration.

Heaslip was adamant Ireland can tweak their tactical approach between kick-and-chase, wide-wide or up-the-jumper depending on what England throw at them, but he accepts a more clinical brand of finishing will be required against a side that rarely concedes after a handful of phases.

He’s nothing if not respectful of England though Heaslip, the son of an Irish Army brigadier general who has soldiered alongside a few of Saturday’s opponents with the Lions, eschews the ‘any other game’ mantra favoured by most of his colleagues on this particular week.

“It’s England. Twickenham. If you can’t get motivated for a game like that, get out of the changing room, to be honest. If you are an Irishman and you’re playing tiddlywinks against an Englishman, or chess or scrabble, you want to beat him. You know what I mean? It is very easy to be motivated.

“In terms of the losses, one loss and one draw, I’ve been in that situation before. There is a core, not many, who have been in this situation before. We know which way it can go. We’ve got to be prepared. We’re pretty motivated, pretty driven for this opportunity.”

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