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Wednesday 25 April 2018

Heaslip: New Zealand are not the untouchables

Ireland's Jamie Heaslip. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Ireland's Jamie Heaslip. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

JAMIE HEASLIP went to great pains to stress New Zealand "are not untouchable".

"There is not much mystery about it. There is a shroud that surrounds the All Blacks. They have created a very good team and cultural following.

"They are like any other top side. They're very smart, very accurate and they have very good players. They have a lot of strengths. But there are chinks as well.

"We have to come up with a game plan, I suppose, to exploit those chinks, however small they might be against a team like the All Blacks."

The Irish number eight has been at the top of the game over the course of 59 caps for his country and two British and Irish Lions tours to South Africa in 2009 and Australia this year.

He knows what it takes to succeed against the best.

"You have to have utter belief in yourself, in the guys left and right of you in that moment on the pitch and bring the intensity as well," he said.

Heaslip is in an educated position to evaluate the best in his position as New Zealander Kieran Read is seen by many as a racing certainty to be crowned World Player of the Year at the end of this month.

Incredible

"In my book, I would put him and Sergio (Parisse) as the best eights out there and he is showing some incredible form right now," said Heaslip.

"We were talking to the Aussies last week at the dinner and they were like: 'Just mark Kieran Read'. That is how much of an influence he can have.

"Kieran's pretty much a full package, you know. He has got great distribution skills. He has got great carrying skills. He is a serious athlete. He has got all the attributes.

"He has been playing some fantastic rugby over the last year-and-a-half, two years, even longer. He sets very high standards for himself."

The problem with looking after Read, as opposed to Parisse for Italy, is that there are fourteen others players you have to consider as serious threats.

"He is a big challenge for whoever is in front of him at that time on the field. You've got to respect that. But, you can't just focus in on Kieran or Richie (McCaw) or whoever it is."

The All Blacks are an all-singing, all-dancing outfit punctuated with players of world-class credentials, playing in a well-tutored system that all of them understand.

"You've got to give them the respect they deserve and they do deserve that respect. But, you've got to focus on the big picture as well.

"It is a dangerous, dangerous thing if you start focusing in on one player on any team that you go against."

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