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Sunday 4 December 2016

Jamie Heaslip: Why I'm gutted to become Ireland's most capped back-row forward

David Wallace is tackled by England’s Manu Tuilagi, which resulted in the Munster man missing the 2011 World Cup
David Wallace is tackled by England’s Manu Tuilagi, which resulted in the Munster man missing the 2011 World Cup

Jamie Heaslip admits he will be "gutted" to eclipse David Wallace's record as Ireland's most-capped back-row forward in Cardiff on Saturday.

Number eight Heaslip will captain Ireland in their opening World Cup warm-up clash against Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

The Leinster loose-forward will win his 73rd cap, moving past his former Test team-mate Wallace's mark, as head coach Joe Schmidt seeks a strong start to four World Cup preparation fixtures.

Heaslip hailed former Munster flanker Wallace as one of his finest back-row opponents and team-mates.

"In a weird way I was a little bit gutted to be honest," said Heaslip of learning he would move past Wallace's record.

"I was a little bit sad, because I hold Wally with particularly high regard, as a player and as a bloke, but as a back-row guy as well.

"I was a bit sad to be honest, that I passed one of my idols, and especially in the last World Cup he was one of the guys that I unfortunately saw him play his last international. Yeah, I was pretty sad to be honest.

"It's cool obviously, on one side, but I think Wally was probably one of the best, if not the best, back-row player I've ever played with or against, and probably the best who played for Ireland."

Wallace won 72 Ireland caps between 2001 and 2011, and featured on the 2001 and 2009 British and Irish Lions tours.

Heaslip branded Wallace all but the complete back-row forward ahead of facing Wales on Saturday.

"He was just awesome, absolutely - ball carrying, defence, work-rate, knowledge, the full package really," said Heaslip.

"Bar his line-out ability. Maybe I can take him on that! But otherwise it was a bit bitter sweet hearing that, to be honest."

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