It is all too ironic, then, that a return to full fitness seems almost as remote for the Leinster and Ireland No.8 now as it did seven months ago when he first suffered an injury during the warm-up for the Six Nations meeting with England.
“I wish I could give you some update, in terms of timeframe,” said Leinster assistant coach Girvan Dempsey yesterday.
“Unfortunately, I can’t. He is just continuing through the rehab programme and continual assessment.
“The only thing I can say to you is he has made progress. Unfortunately, we don’t have an end date.
“It is slow. It is frustrating. He’s frustrated. We’re frustrated.”
The no-update update. We’ve heard all this before.
Heaslip’s situation has been encased in a fog from the off. Described at first as a rolled ankle, it morphed into a hamstring issue and then a lower back problem and the player himself has been consistently coy about revealing the intricacies.
Leo Cullen, his boss at Leinster, came closest to explaining it all when he talked about a leaking disc in the 33-year old’s back.
That was back in late September and the former lock was even talking about the possible need for a second surgery then.
If that took place, then it would appear to be news to Dempsey, who professed to know nothing about anything like that, but the language surrounding the issue is a little more encouraging now than it has been this past half-year or so.
Heaslip himself said that he had “no answer” a month ago and Cullen spoke of uncertainty and complications around about the same time when describing how he had suffered something similar back in 2005.
That particular injury is one that still gives Cullen problems but he at least returned to the field of play and added close to another decade onto his CV before retiring. Dempsey is pretty sure that Heaslip will be back, too.
“Jamie is unbelievable, in terms of his robustness and his ability to stay injury-free. That’s why this has annoyed him and frustrated him. In terms of his professionalism with his rehab, he has been excellent. He has made progress and he has improved.
“We’re hopeful he can continue to do that.”
Heaslip did take part in some pre-season training out at UCD but he is working full-time with the physios and rehab staff right now and Dempsey confirmed yesterday that the medical people have at least identified the specific problem and “feel they are on top of it now”.
Leinster are also operating without captain Isa Nacewa, Garry Ringrose, and Josh van der Flier for the foreseeable but it was confirmed that Jonathan Sexton and Robbie Henshaw are both progressing well after minor quad niggles sidelined them for the weekend win in Ulster.
Sean O’Brien, Richardt Strauss, Rob Kearney, and Rory O’Loughlin all came through their returns from injury without issue while Noel Reid and James Ryan are being assessed after suffering head injuries in Belfast.
Dan Leavy (hip) and Fergus McFadden (hamstring) are also being monitored this week ahead of a Guinness PRO14 tie away to Glasgow Warriors which Leinster will have to negotiate minus Joe Schmidt’s front-line players.
Dempsey admitted that the province will likely have to do without any of those likely to feature in Ireland’s squad of 23 for Saturday week’s meeting with South Africa in Dublin. The national squad was in camp yesterday and is again today.
When those players involved eventually return to club duties, they will find the Kiwi James Lowe waiting for them. The wing, signed last March, may arrive in Dublin as early as next week after completing his Mitre 10 duties with Tasman at the weekend.