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Heaslip likes his routine


Jamie Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Jamie Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip holds the opinion that South Africa's Duane Vermeulen was "the best eight in the Rugby Championship".

Better than reigning World Player of the Year Kieran Read? "He had a better series than Kieran, yeah."

That is the measure of the individual one-on-one Heaslip will have to prepare for on Saturday as he gives away eight kilos in weight to Vermeulen, who has cemented his Springbok place at the ripe age of 28.

In some ways, it is a reflection of what Ireland will confront, a larger moving machine which will have to be counter-acted by a super-human work-rate and a smart game plan devised by coach Joe Schmidt, implemented by everyone involved right down to the last detail.

Of course, the notice to quit by John Plumtree put in train the research by Schmidt which took him to the doorstep of Simon Easterby.


It was an offer the former Ireland blindside simply couldn't refuse.

It is also a move that sits well with hard-to-impress Heaslip,

"I am lucky in Leinster. I work with a forwards coach I played with. And now, with Simon, I am in that position as well."

There is value in knowing the worth of the player before he moved on into the afterlife of coaching at the Scarlets for six years, four as an assistant, two as head man.

This kind of familiarity breeds quicker, deeper understanding of where Leo Cullen, at Leinster, and Easterby are coming from.

"I suppose they've been in the trenches with you," he said.

"I'm not taking away from coaches that haven't played or anything like that but they've been on your side, in that huddle, in those moments where it's a five-metre lineout from your line and you've got to stop it.

"They know what it's all about. They know the kind of players they have around them.

"It's great to have someone that has been exactly there with you. He's played some massive games and had huge success at international level."

There will be pressure loaded onto Easterby to improve on Plumtree's first and only season overseeing the forwards.

It produced unforeseen returns in the scrum - Greg Feek must take the plaudits there - and direct benefits from the lineout and maul.

The first practical element of Easterby's appointment must have been to know it would be a collaboration rather than a master-pupil relationship with Ireland captain O'Connell.

"Simon has very much brought his own flavor to it," continued Heaslip.

"Simon has come in to run the forwards and has brought a different kind of thought process to the lineout.

"He works closely with Paulie (O'Connell). We're very lucky to have Paulie and Dev (Toner), who know how to run a lineout.

"Between the three of them and the lads buying into the way they want to operate, I think we're in a very good place.

"I think our lineout has operated very well over the last year and Simon will try and bring that to another level."

While Easterby has been employed in place of Plumtree and Richie Murphy been made a more permanent fixture, the pyramid of power is topped by Schmidt and the long-serving, highly regarded Les Kiss.

"Joe doesn't change the way he trains or how he approaches games no matter," said Heaslip.

"We looked at South Africa from as early as September, I think August actually, when Joe first started introducing things.

"But it is still the same, we focus on our attack Monday, defence Tuesday and Thursday. Friday it's kind of into team run type stuff.

"We did a lot of stuff last week, spent the first half of the week on Australia and the tail half on South Africa.

"We're well versed and it doesn't change and it won't change throughout the whole November series the way he approaches it."

Ireland's number eight finds comfort in knowing what is coming and what he has to do to handle it.

"There is something reassuring about routine, boxes are ticked during the week and you know you're in a good place.

"Then, it's game day and you just let the emotions flow," he said.


"It's no harm to mix it up every so often and I suppose he does with certain drills that he might bring forward on certain days and mix up that format but in general there is a routine to it."

Heaslip never crosses the mental barrier between what is a practical benefit into the make-believe world of lucky charms or superstitious rituals.

"I don't believe in superstition. I believe in trying to do certain things. Routine and superstition are quite different.

"I don't believe something bad is going to happen to me if I don't do things according to the way it was done the previous week."

It seems to work out right for the man who never gets injured.

"It's a big boys' game and players get hurt," fall the words from a man who probably doesn't even know where the rehabilitation room is at Leinster or Ireland.