JAMIE HEASLIP moved into the slot as uncle number one’ when he took his niece to see One Direction’ at Croke Park on Sunday.
“We got a little bit of special treatment,” he said. “Niall Horan is a bit of a rugby fan, so he kindly let us into his changing room and my niece got to meet four of the five band members. It went down a great little treat. It was a hell of a show.”
In the same way, Leinster will have to turn on a hell of a show’ to overcome in-form Glasgow Warriors in the PRO12 League final this Saturday evening.
Or else, it will fan the flames of speculation that the club is going in one direction’ - backwards - given how they will have to cope without Brian O’Driscoll from here on.
“We know them all too well between Europe and playing them in knockouts and playing them in the league,” said Heaslip. “They’ve got quality players and it’s not going to be easy going up against them. We played them in the semis last year and I think everyone would agree that game could have gone either way.
“We have the experience of being there. I was reminded that this is our fifth time being in the league final. We haven’t always had success in those, so we know the margins that you have to make and can’t give up.”
The Ospreys ruined Leinster’s plans in 2010 and 2012, at The RDS both times, and Munster scattered them to the four winds in 2011 at Thomond Park. They are far from unbeatable.
“You go up against teams like Ospreys or Glasgow who’ve got quality players and play like a team. They know what they’re about and what shape they want to play,” he acknowledged.
“They’ve got their patterns down. They’ve got the players to execute it and they can cause you problems. If you don’t bring your A’ game, they’re going to take their chances.”
The Warriors will be undaunted. They will not travel with bad baggage. They were inches away from taking Leinster out in the semi-final last season.
“It could have gone either way. There was only one score between ourselves and Glasgow,” he pointed out.
“That was down to the ball that we held up over the line when they looked to be in for a try. It could have been a very different game so we know it all too well what, it’s going to take.”
In the regular season, Glasgow gave away fewer points (309) and fewer tries (22) than any other side, while Leinster produced the second highest number of points (554) and the second most tries (57).
The fact that the best attack in the league - that was The Ospreys - did not even make it into the semi-finals indicates the oldest theory in rugby holds true. Defence wins championships.
“More often than not, at every ruck, they’ve got someone else in on the ball - trying to get at it, slowing that momentum down,” pushed Heaslip.
“It’s quite easy to defend against a team when you get it past three or four-second rucks. And they’re quite good and perfectly legit at doing that. Sometimes it is easier to defend than attack. If you’re going through 13-14 phases with the ball, you’re wondering when am I going to get a break here?’
“They have the discipline to just hold-off and come off the line and defend, not duck under each other, just take the space and they’re quite strong around the ruck as well so they don’t leak any easy metres around there.
“These are all headaches for our attacking coaches, in terms of trying to break them down and putting it on the players to execute the game plan”.