As Ireland prepare for what looks like mission impossible against world champions New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, Jamie Heaslip hopes the team can respond positively after the demoralising defeat to Australia last week and the humiliating outcome in the summer of 2012 when tomorrow’s opponents ran riot with a 60-0 win in Hamilton.
Heaslip believes there is a right to dream and pointed out it was a show of passion that helped Ireland go toe-to-toe with New Zealand in the second of three Tests last year. On that occasion the All Blacks were on the ropes at 19-19 before running out fortunate winners.
Heaslip promises there will be no repeat of the Australia debacle a week ago: “Off the back of last week, we’re not too concerned about what transpired because we will have learned from those silly tries we let in. They are all very, very fixable from our perspective. Looking at the game as a whole, we created a lot of chances. We didn’t execute them; we just didn’t attack correctly but we did take a small step. We learned a lot off the back of that game.
“Things for us to work on this week? Controlling those aspects that I talked about, but against these guys you have to be on top of your game.
“You have to have utter belief in yourself, in your team-mates, in the guys left and right of you, and bring the intensity then as well. Maybe at crucial times around the ruck and stuff like that, we lacked a little bit of intensity.”
He clearly admires New Zealand, but is not in awe and declared boldly that they are not unbeatable.
“They are very smart, they are very accurate and they have very good players as well. It’s a really good mix, but like every other team, there are a couple of chinks as well.
“We have to come up with a game plan to exploit those small chinks, however small they might be. We have to have that belief to carry it out and be really, really, accurate in our actions, hopefully to put them on the back foot and have utter belief and control.
“I really don’t think from a professional player’s point of view there would be much mystery about them. I know the aura that surrounds the All Blacks and they have created a very good team culture, and are deservedly held in high regard.
“But all our players, even though some may not have played against them before as well, all have played big games — in finals, semi-finals, big Heineken Cup games. It’s a big challenge but there is no mystery about it. You go about your work the same way you do any other team; you do your video work on them, on different players, on your training, you go through the game plan, the different actions you have to carry out in the game.”
One of the biggest threats to Ireland’s hopes is Heaslip’s opposite number in the No 8 jersey, the lethal Kieran Read.
Heaslip has a healthy respect for his rival but relishes the prospect of challenging the man who has overshadowed the legendary Richie McCaw in the last few games.
“Kieran’s pretty much the full package, you know. He has got all the attributes.
“In my book, I would rate him and Sergio Parisse the best eights out there and he is showing some incredible form right now.
“You’ve got to give him the respect he deserves.”
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