Captain Heaslip to lean on Drico
IRELAND captain Jamie Heaslip will look to lean on Brian O'Driscoll for advice as he embarks on a new phase of his career.
"Brian is the same player, same professional, same team-mate, I've seen it with the Lions, Ireland and Leinster," said Heaslip, at the Six Nations launch in London yesterday.
"He doesn't talk any more or any less. His standard of training is the same. He's still the ultimate pro that he is and it is fantastic that he is in the squad and I can lean on him for experience."
Heaslip will certainly need all the assistance he can muster as Ireland work towards what is certain to be a gripping Six Nations opener against Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
"It is a big game against Wales who are a dangerous side," acknowledged Heaslip, a country Ireland has lost to the last three times.
"A lot of people think they are not on form because of November, but most games they were a score or two away from having a quite different November series.
"We know all too well that they play a full 80 minutes. It is a tall challenge and the fact they beat us the last three times just makes that challenge that little bit harder."
Heaslip will find a fellow back row captain in Wales adversary Sam Warburton, who has had to deal with a dip in form to bring into question his candidacy for the British & Irish Lions captaincy.
"The main thing I learned over the autumn was that I don't like losing," said flanker Warburton.
The Grand Slam champions were billed as the next great European side until a complete collapse in form, started by their 3-0 whitewash by Australia last June.
It was the start of their seven-match slump to a dismal world ranking of ninth, three places below Ireland, and into third-seed status for the 2015 World Cup.
This includes their four straight losses at home to Argentina, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia in November.
"But it's a really nice feeling to come into this championship as the champions. You have to wait until one or two games are over to see how everyone is shaping up. But the key for us is confidence.
"And to know that you don't become a bad team overnight," warned Warburton.