| 6.6°C Dublin

Hardy Heaslip hangs tough

Close

25 March 2013; Leinster's Jamie Heaslip during squad training ahead of their side's Celtic League 2012/2013, Round 19, match against Ulster on Saturday. Leinster Rugby Squad Training and Media Briefing, Rosemount, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

25 March 2013; Leinster's Jamie Heaslip during squad training ahead of their side's Celtic League 2012/2013, Round 19, match against Ulster on Saturday. Leinster Rugby Squad Training and Media Briefing, Rosemount, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

25 March 2013; Leinster's Jamie Heaslip during squad training ahead of their side's Celtic League 2012/2013, Round 19, match against Ulster on Saturday. Leinster Rugby Squad Training and Media Briefing, Rosemount, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

LEINSTER leader reaffirms his passion for Irish captaincy and refutes perceived indifference towards game.

November 2012

Declan Kidney: "I want you to know there is a lot of stuff that comes with this that you don't know. Do you want the captaincy?"

Jamie Heaslip: "Yeah, delighted."

Saturday, March 16

Italy 22 Ireland 15

Kidney: "Would you have taken it, knowing now what you didn't know in November?"

Heaslip: "Yeah. Absolutely."

Did Heaslip really want the captaincy? Was it a burning ambition? "Yeah! Everyone wants it. Ask anyone," he said.

"I didn't really know what Deccie meant in November. You are almost like the ice-breaker dealing with the media, be it good or bad. You are the first point of contact," said Heaslip.

"Despite how you are playing, if the team is not going well, you obviously are at the forefront of that. That is part and parcel of it. I have thick enough skin. I was willing and am willing to get on with it."

For the record, Heaslip was straight enough to concede disappointment with his impact against England. That was one from five. He met his own standards in the other four. That sounds like Lions form.

In November, Heaslip had led Leinster to 11 victories in 12 matches as part-time leader when Leo Cullen was not available.

 

Succeeded

That was the sum total of his experience as captain. He would have to learn on the job as Brian O'Driscoll had to do when he succeeded Keith Wood.

"I was obviously captain during the November series. I had seen most of the stuff I was going to have to deal with. So I thought," said Heaslip.

"When I went to the RBS Six Nations launch in London, it was a case of 'Wow, there are a lot of people here'. That was when it really hit home how much interest there was in it. That is because people love it. It is such a great competition."

The learning curve has been steep and not always upward. There has been the good day, Argentina in November, the great day, Wales in February, the ugly day, England at The Aviva, the draw day, France in Dublin, and the bad days, Scotland and Italy in March.

Ireland have come under constant attack for their inconsistency. There have been reasons for it. Most have been down to injury.

Some have been down to coach Kidney. The first in a list of mistakes was to remove the captain's armband from Brian O'Driscoll at an incongruous hour.

From the outside, the Ireland captaincy looked like a poisoned chalice, no matter who took it, whether it was Rory Best, Jonathan Sexton, Rob Kearney or Heaslip.

This was not because the captaincy was transferred from a master in Brian O'Driscoll to a new man. It was merely the abrupt and ill-timed manner of the transition.

The laissez-faire attitude to the game outside Heaslip's workplace has been interpreted, at times, as a man who doesn't truly care. He does.

"What I've always said is I don't watch much rugby. Like Super 15. I don't. However, I do my analysis. I have the sports code on my computer at home so I can watch my training when I get home every day and have it all done before work on Monday morning."

His public persona is not of a natural captain, of a serious player with serious business on his mind. Heaslip does not dispute the impression. He does dispute the reality. "People who aren't involved in the team, either Leinster or Ireland, day-in, day-out don't see the work that goes in," he said.

"I am very professional. I am serious about what I do and the lifestyle I have outside of that.

"I suppose I am quite a relaxed person. But, I am a serious guy when it comes to playing."

A change of coach will bring a change of philosophy, a change of opinion on how Ireland will play and, possibly, on who should be the captain.

How important is it that he keeps it if or when the coach is changed? "I mean Brian was gutted to give it up. I would be gutted to give it up.

"Yeah, I would be absolutely gutted. It is a huge honour.

"I absolutely love it. I am really passionate about being captain."


Privacy