Cool Heaslip awaits Ireland call

DYNAMIC on the park, laid back to the point of being horizontal off it. It’s a contrast in styles that has served Jamie Heaslip well as he continues his climb up the ladder of Irish rugby.

Though Paris has been the graveyard of many an Irish international career, he claims there wasn’t “a bother” on him leading up to Ireland’s fixture there. Such a statement wouldn’t ring true from many a mouth, but with Heaslip it does.

It may be a cliche, but he really is a different man when he crosses that white line and he did justice to the increasingly vociferous calls for his international elevation in recent seasons with his display in Paris.

He was pleased enough with his own performance but the sour taste of defeat has lingered longer than the glow of his own input and he rails against the notion that he is somehow a certainty to start against the Scots on Saturday.

“Oh God no, not at all. Every time someone asks, ‘can you get tickets for the Scotland game?’, I’ve been saying ‘you can hold off. I will find out on Tuesday if I’m playing and then let you know’. I won’t have a clue until (this) morning and I think that’s the same for a lot of guys.”

You wouldn’t expect him to say anything differently but, as Denis Leamy said last week, Heaslip has the look of a man who can wear the green number eight shirt for years to come. He certainly has the pedigree.

Dad Richard was a member of the same Shannon side as former Ireland manager Brian O’Brien while older brother Graham was captain of a Connacht side that claimed a famous European Shield win over Bordeaux-Begles 11 years ago.

A regular at underage level for Ireland, Jamie gave notice of his potential in 2004 at the IRB U-21 World Cup, helping Ireland to reach the final and earning a nomination for the grade’s world player of the year in the process.

His ascent to the summit of Irish rugby sunk in that little bit more last Saturday when he watched the Leinster-Cardiff Magners League game in his civvies and he admits that it was slightly surreal not to be involved.

He called into the dressing room after Leinster’s win to shoot the breeze and pilfer some sambos as well as feed off some of the positive vibes that were floating around after such an important win.

“We have to keep ourselves competitive during the November internationals when players are away and with the Six Nations. Those games are almost more important than some other games in the Magners League.

“It’s just a great win for the lads, especially against Cardiff, who were second in the table. Now we’re clear by six points, which gives us a bit of a buffer zone,” said a man who was plugging away with Leinster while the national team imploded at the World Cup.

Having come so close to the Celtic League title this past two seasons, claiming the trophy this year would be a boon to the province and serve as a panacea to the pain of their early Heineken Cup exit.

All that is further down the track for now. A home game against the struggling Scots would appear to be a more straightforward assignment after the rigours of Saint-Denis but no Irish back row player will be looking at it that way.

Renowned for their rucking game, Scotland have a reputation as awkward, crafty opponents up front although Frank Hadden has attempted to move away from the more skilful type of forward to a bulkier prototype.

It clearly hasn’t worked so far and the Scottish coach must now decide whether to recall the out of favour

Alistair Hogg while long-term injury absentee Simon Taylor played for 45 minutes for Stade Francais over the weekend.

Whoever fills the three back row positions, Heaslip is bracing himself for some turbulence come Saturday.

“They have a pretty dynamic back row with some good ball carriers and they also play the game with a lot of width. They have some good speed on the wings. We are going to have our work cut out for us.”

Much to ponder for Heaslip then before the weekend.

But, knowing him, he is unlikely to lose much sleep over it.


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