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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Jamie Heaslip: 'I had tears in my eyes when I missed out on 2007 World Cup squad'

O'Sullivan rejection was hard to take - Heaslip

Jamie scores Ireland’s first try in the RBS Six Nations game in Croke Park against Italy in February 2010
Jamie scores Ireland’s first try in the RBS Six Nations game in Croke Park against Italy in February 2010
Jamie Heaslip

Even Jamie Heaslip has known the hurt of heartbreak from non-selection to a World Cup.

The rejection came out of the mouth of Eddie O'Sullivan, the Ireland coach Heaslip had little or no relationship with in 2007.

O'Sullivan would strip down to his 30-man squad by one-on-one conversations with those who didn't make the final cut.

"I go down to breakfast in the morning and don't make eye contact with anyone," says Heaslip.

"I make it through breakfast without Eddie coming to me.

"I'm thinking, 'F**k, I think I've made it.'

"Nothing happens and it comes to about 11 o'clock and I'm in my room.

"Then I get a knock, knock, knock on the door.

"It's just me in the room and I was thinking 'F**k.'

"It was weird. Eddie wouldn't even come into the room.

"He just says 'You haven't made it'. I was like 'Why?'

"He says 'I don't think you're big enough, I don't think you're strong enough and that's why.'"

It captured in one conversation almost the total communication between coach and player.

"Bar Eddie calling me Graham (his older brother played under O'Sullivan for Connacht) for two seasons, that was the only time he got my name right and talked to me," says Heaslip.

habit

The moment has lived with a man who usually makes a habit out of winning and never looking back.

"I packed my bags up, didn't even say 'see you later' to anyone," said Heaslip.

"I bumped into Mal (O'Kelly). I said it to him and he had nothing but encouragement .

"I hopped in my car, headed straight for Naas," he added.

"Michael Cheika rang me and I remember I had tears in my eyes.

"Cheiks is a hard individual and I was almost telling myself to be strong on the phone."

Heaslip drowned his sorrows in a range of drinks surrounded by mates inside Hayden's Bar in his hometown that day and night.

For a while, he prepared and played without due concern or care for the collective. It was all about showing O'Sullivan he had made the wrong choice.

"For a lot of that season and for a long time, I had a bit of a 'f**k-you mentality,'" he revealed.

"It was good at times, but it was also bad because it put a focus more on me than a focus on the team.

"In a true team game, you have to focus on others. It took me a while to come around to that thinking."

The pain of rejection and all that flows from it could only take Heaslip so far.

"You don't get anywhere with that negative kind of thinking and, in hindsight, it was a good thing that I was then back to Cheiks and his environment at Leinster.

"He kind of embraced peoples' differences and individuality, while trying to blend it into a collective.

"That's a better way of being."

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