Advancing to the Heineken Cup quarter finals and an impending Six Nations campaign would have any man smiling. Yet in the case of Jamie Heaslip he, more than most, has a reason to be cheerful as the rugby season turns up a few notches over the coming weeks.
The Leinster and Ireland No 8 was in the Morgan Hotel on Monday afternoon promoting PUMA’S latest clothing line and spoke excitedly about the recent past as well as Ireland’s campaign in the Six Nations.
Despite having a cool and laid back demeanour. “I don’t know what I’m doing in an hour’s time,let alone a week’s time” Heaslip has been blazing a trail this season for Leinster, helping his province secure that all important home quarter final against the Cardiff Blues in the Aviva Stadium at the beginning of April.
While Heaslip is not looking too far down the road, he did note with interest that Munster and Ulster drew each other in one of the other quarter finals and believes that with three Irish provinces in the last eight of the Heineken Cup, all is looking well ahead of Ireland’s opening Six Nations game against Wales on February 5th.
“It’s always a good couple of days when we meet up first. I think lads will be giddy and excited when they come into camp. You can ask Rala (Ireland’s bag man) in the first week how the squad is. He is a usually a good indicator.”
And is there any bad blood from the World Cup? “I have no qualms personally, the best side on the day won. We made more mistakes and they were pretty clinical. I’m sure that whatever team goes out against Wales will know that you cannot make any mistakes.”
One of the sticking points from the World Cup was that Ireland was too predictable. That when Plan A didn’t work there was no Plan B. Once the big ball carriers were stopped Ireland seemed to stop.
However Heaslip believes that fans and opposition teams will see a new edge to Ireland’s play during this Six Nations campaign. “I think we will vary our game and try to carry more. The defensive side of our game isn’t a worry we just want to expand on the attacking side of our game.”
That attacking side of the game will, of course, be minus a certain Brian O’Driscoll and while agreeing that he will be a loss from the side, Heaslip believes that the chance is there for other, younger, players to step up to the mark.
“Of course you are going to miss someone like Brian and even the likes of Shane Horgan around the Leinster camp.
“They have played in so many big games and they are big guys to miss, but as we say, there is an opportunity for someone else to come in.
“In the case of Brian, the likes of Eoin O’Malley and Fergus McFadden, they both have come in at 13 for Leinster and they have stepped up”
Away from international duties, Heaslip and his Leinster team mates have that all important Heineken Cup quarter final against Cardiff and with five out of the eight teams remaining in the competition, he feels that serves as huge evidence of the quality that is in the Rabodirect Pro 12.
“It speaks volumes. Sometimes the Pro12 goes along quietly without anyone noticing, while all the attention is being paid to the Premiership and the Top 14. Teams like Edinburgh were been written off before a ball had been kicked in the Heineken Cup and here they are, top of their group.”
Leaving the hotel and wrapping up his afternoon’s work, you ask Jamie how he thinks Ireland will do in the Six Nations. “I’m quietly confident”, he said with that smile knowing there is more hidden than he is willing to give away. Expect Jamie Heaslip to give everything over the Six Nations and beyond. It’s the only way he knows.