The build-up has been interminable. As always.
Well over two months have passed since Joe Schmidt first gathered his expanded panel of players at Ireland’s HQ in Kildare and another two weeks have still to be negotiated before the side’s opening Pool D encounter with Canada.
Jamie Heaslip couldn’t believe how time had flown when the head coach made just that point earlier this week, but the Leinster number eight insists that time flying by is just what happens when you are a professional rugby player focused on the now.
As for the meetings with Italy and France at the end of the pool stages? They may as well be the other side of Christmas. “It seems like it could be next year to me,” said the back row. “Bloody hell, the fact is you think week to week. It scares me how quick the weeks go by. Joe said that we had been doing pre-season for two months and I just thought, ‘where did that two months go?’ It’s just flown past.
“I’m sure the next two weeks will creep up on us. That’s not to say that Joe and the management team don’t already have the work done.
“When it comes to those two games all the work is done for us. All we have to do is flip the script and read off the page for that week.”
He could be forgiven for at least wishing tomorrow’s last warm-up, against England in Twickenham, away. The squad has been picked, the lungs are working at maximum capacity and there must surely be a very human desire to pray against ill-fortune at such a late stage.
Heaslip begs to differ.
For him this is the last opportunity to work on his match fitness before Ireland’s tournament opener against Canada in Cardiff, though the misfortune suffered by David Wallace this time four years ago, when a knee injury cost him a place in the 2011 tournament, has stayed with him.
“I distinctly remember playing England in our last warm-up game for the last World Cup, despite getting concussed. I was in the medical room and seeing Wally across from me with his family around him and in a bit of pain. I realised how quickly it can all end.”
If nothing else, tomorrow allows Heaslip, Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony the opportunity to renew acquaintances from the start for the first time this season and maybe even to erase the memory of the back row’s sufferings at the hands of Justin Tipuric last week.
The Welsh openside destroyed an Ireland side operating with two-thirds of its starting back row at the breakdown – Sean O’Brien returns for Jordi Murphy this week – which made Heaslip’s suggestion that they were “happy” with how that sector fared somewhat curious.
“We knew coming up against him (Tipuric), we knew what to expect. He is a fine player in my opinion, he is an outstanding number seven, to be honest.
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