Sunday 20 January 2019

Heaslip getting back to basics on the field

Leinster captain sees the reasons for Connacht's good start

Jamie Heaslip
Jamie Heaslip

If he had to choose, you would presume Jamie Heaslip would prefer to be respected than to be liked. He is that sort of character.

It comes through in the way he talks about the new responsibility that is the Leinster captaincy, a role he covets almost as much as that of Paul O'Connell's as Ireland's chief.

"I am not Leo Cullen. I am very different to Leo. I would have a very different style to Leo. Some guys might like that; some guys might not," he said, at the launch of Maxinutrition's new online Maxishop in Ireland.

"One thing the lads probably can't hold against me is they can't say I'm not a good professional".

Heaslip has never laid claim to hold the answers to all the questions: "I have no problem asking guys what they think on an issue.

"I've said and done things that are wrong and shouldn't be done.

"I've learned from it. I can't profess to be the be-all and end-all. Always lean on other guys. Always".


Heaslip is a man who leads through actions, through example, at Leinster as so many professional captains do these days, not by what they say, mostly what they do.

"We've got a lot of different leaders in the squad that I can lean on for different things. I just try and set a good example in terms of how to go about your business, how to be a good pro'.

"It is a holistic view. I am not a screaming, shouting type of guy. It might be a little different in the changing room the day of a game."

The temporary charge as Ireland's captain came at the wrong time.

Declan Kidney was on his last legs. So were many of the players as injuries took hold for the 2013 Six Nations.

It was a steep learning curve that, probably, will be more beneficial to his club now than it was for his country at the time.

He took a lot out of it.

"I feel a lot more at ease. It was a tough year for us that year. We didn't have great success. But, I loved every minute of it."

It is back to basics for Heaslip where it matters most, on the field of play, which happens to be the Sportsground tomorrow, a place he often attended to watch his older brother Graham play for Connacht.

The years have moved on and, at the moment, so have Connacht. They have won their first two in the Guinness PRO12 League to stand a proud third in the table, two places and two points above the champions.


What's different? "They are doing their basics really, really well, I find," said Heaslip.

"They have a really good defence, an aggressive defence, especially off the sidelines. They're not showing a lot of holes. They come up as one solid line.

"They pick and choose their times to go at the ball (in the ruck).

"They have such confidence in their defence line that they don't chase hard after it a whole lot. Now, they might change that coming against us because we like playing with quick ball.

"With the ball, they're just being clinical. They took their opportunity against Edinburgh from the maul. They have some really good exciting players as well."

The list of names was short. Kieron Marmion and John Muldoon - "the essence of what that club is all about" - were put out for special mention and special attention tomorrow.

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