Jamie Heaslip feeling ‘good’ but return still down the track

The man circling the athletics track situated below Jamie Heaslip as he spoke to the gathered media was the perfect metaphor for the conversation taking place.

Jamie Heaslip feeling ‘good’ but return still down the track

A lot of energy expended — but going nowhere.

Over the course of almost 20 minutes, the Leinster and Ireland flanker spoke on a number of issues, but gave no real insight into the most important one.

He’s not played a game of rugby since March, the 10 months on the sidelines by far his longest period out of the sport since turning professional.

One back operation — and possibly a second — has come since, but there’s no sign of him pulling on a blue or green shirt anytime soon.

Speaking on a rugby podcast late last month, he casually expressed hope that he would be back “early next year”, but there was no real hint that was likely when he spoke yesterday.

The 33-year-old is extremely protective of his ‘medical information’, an approach that made it almost impossible to gain any real idea of when — or even if — he will make a full recovery.

Q: “We’ll ask the obvious question first...”

A: “You’ll get the obvious answer...”

Q: “How are you feeling?”

A: “Good.”

Q: “Any update on the prognosis? When you’ll be back?”

A: “Nope. Nope.”

Q: “No deadlines or timeline?”

A: “Nope. Nope.”

Q: “I want to ask about the second operation...”

A: “Which operation? Who said I had a second operation? Who did?“

Q: “Did you have one?”

A: “I am not going to give you an answer.”

Q: “Are you definitely going to return?”

A: “I am not going to give you an answer on my...I have been very clear regarding my medical information. It’s private. I’ll get back on the field when I get back on the field. That’s as best as I can give you. I don’t mean to be hard on it, but medical information, I’ve been quite clear about [keeping it private], return to play...I’ll be on the field when I’m fit and healthy.

Q: “Is that because you’re not sure?

A: “No. It’s just because I don’t think, you know, my medical information is private and it’s going to stay that way unfortunately.”

Heaslip reported for pre-season with Leinster but suffered a setback and is reported to have had a second operation on the lower back disc, but that has not been confirmed. Both Leo Cullen and Girvan Dempsey, the Leinster coaches, have spoken optimistically of Heaslip’s return, but Cullen also admitted that he feels pain even now after undergoing the same operation Heaslip did, many years ago.

Rehab, the player confirms, is ‘literally week by week”, although he did say he is “able to do what they tell me to do”.

A nurse has told him not to go to Leinster games, but we don’t know why, and he has still no desire to put any serious timeline on his return.

Still, it’s not all negative and Heaslip admits he’s found a silver lining during his time on the sidelines.

“I was able to plan my holidays for the first time in 12 years, which was nice,” he said. “I was also able to become a fan, which was really refreshing, truth be told, especially come the business end of the season.

“It’s been really nice to be a fan I suppose, and kind of be in your shoes, you know what I mean? It’s been great.”

He enjoys having weekends in which he can do something other than play rugby, and has watched more games on TV than he’d previously admit to doing.

“Well, I watch it muted, depending on who is broadcasting,” he said, with a smile. “I only watch Leinster and Ireland, it will kill me to watch the other sides to be honest, that’s just the Leinster man in me.”

Watching as Leinster rack up victories in the Champions Cup has been enjoyable, but there is some frustration at not being able to play alongside some of the club’s new faces.

“You miss parts of it. You miss playing those kind of games like the weekend, those battles. The November series or opportunities in the summer that have gone. You miss those and when you’re injured you miss being around the players,” he said.

“I haven’t played with Scott Fardy, I haven’t played with James Lowe, Jordan (Larmour), or James Ryan, some of the younger lads who broke through at the tail end of last year and kicked on.”

Jamie Heaslip was speaking at the launch of the 36th GOAL Mile. The annual event sees tens of thousands run, jog, or walk a Mile for GOAL, helping the aid agency raise money and awareness for their programmes in the developing world. More than 120 events have been pencilled in to take place all across the country. To find a GOAL Mile near you, please visit www.goalglobal.org

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