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Captain Heaslip craves early momentum

CAPTAIN Jamie Heaslip recognises that "there's a lot on it" when Ireland bid to break their three-game losing streak to Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

"It is not the be-all and end-all. But, I know, from experience, in terms of momentum for the Six Nations, this is a massive one," he said.

"In June and in November we got some nice stepping stones, if you will, and we finished on a high (against Argentina). I am not going to say we are at where we want to be, but we're definitely going in the right direction.

"We know all too well the potency of Wales. The last three games they've beaten us. Most of the time, it is where we've lost the game, if you understand me, where they've punished us for our mistakes.

"We have to respect that. We have to know that this is a team that even if we are 10, 15 points up, they will still stay in the game. We have to play for the 80 minutes.



Influence

"They are 80 one-minute opportunities, not 80 minutes as a whole," he said, in what seemed to be a nod to performance psychologist Enda McNulty's influence.

It would seem that Ireland's favoured plan of defence is attack, Craig Gilroy keeping his jersey ahead of Keith Earls, Fergus McFadden and Luke Fitzgerald on the wing.

Ireland have the pack to win the ball and the footballers to keep it with Rory Best returning to hooker, Sean O'Brien to the back row, Rob Kearney to full-back and Brian O'Driscoll to the centre in a side showing four changes to that which eclipsed Argentina.

Perhaps, the tightest calls came on the bench, Dave Kilcoyne edging out Tom Court, Declan Fitzpatrick edging out Michael Bent and Keith Earls edging out Fitzgerald.

"I keep going back to Alan Gaffney's phrase: you can't win a Grand Slam or Six Nations on day one, but you can definitely lose it," said Heaslip.

Ireland: R Kearney; C Gilroy, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, S Zebo; J Sexton, C Murray; C Healy, R Best, M Ross, M McCarthy, D Ryan, P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, J Heaslip (capt). Replacements: S Cronin, D Kilcoyne, D Fitzpatrick, D O'Callaghan, C Henry; E Reddan, R O'Gara, K Earls.