Saturday 19 January 2019

Heaslip sees bright future for Ireland

Jamie Heaslip has revealed it was his conviction that Ireland are on the brink of producing something special which persuaded him to reject the opportunity to play in France.

Heaslip recently turned down lucrative offers from Top 14 clubs to extend his contract with the Irish Rugby Football Union until 2014.

The 27-year-old's comeback from an ankle injury yesterday was shrouded in disappointment as Ireland slipped to a 25-22 defeat by France at Aviva Stadium.

Frustration reigned as an ambitious display containing some electrifying moments was hampered once more by an uncharacteristically high error-count.

Ireland believe their bold new attacking gameplan, introduced in November, offers their best hope of being competitive against top sides.

And Heaslip insists they are tantalisingly close to seeing their endeavour rewarded with success.

"It's always the same against France, I don't think there's much between us," he said.

"We have a very good team which is on the cusp of playing its best rugby since I've been involved. There's no lack of belief or confidence in the squad.

"We have an exceptionally good group of players here in Ireland.

"One of the main reasons for me staying around is that we're on the verge of doing something great and playing some unbelievable rugby.

"There's no question of us losing faith in our style because we're still scoring tries."

Ireland were left stricken by the realisation they had allowed a superb opportunity to register a rare victory over France slip through their fingertips.

Tries from Fergus McFadden, Tomas O'Leary and Heaslip failed to prevent Les Bleus from setting up a momentous showdown with England, the Six Nations' only other unbeaten side, at Twickenham.

Ireland head to Edinburgh on Sunday week knowing they are now unlikely to challenge for the title, but convinced they are in reasonable health.

"We scored three tries to one but still lost the game. It was frustrating. The penalties and turnovers hurt us," said Heaslip.

"We played some very good rugby and there are lot of positives. We created chances and caused problems with the ball.

"But the negatives are that when you score three tries to one you usually win the game.

"We have a very good defensive system and I have faith in it. We can take a lot of pressure from teams.

"We cause problems in the tackle and are very strong in the ruck area.

"On the flip side, in attack we can be very good. We played a very expansive game when we got close to their 22.

"We got quick ball and when we did that we scored tries. We're fairly comfortable on both sides of the coin."

Heaslip has a healthy respect for France but refuses to place them on a pedestal, backing England to cause them problems on February 26.

"France won, they're still on course to win the Grand Slam. We can't win a Grand Slam," he said.

"France have been heavily built up by people, but I don't think they are as good as that. We exposed a lot of holes.

"England will definitely cause them a lot of problems.

"In fairness France stayed in the game against us, they took their scores, forced the penalties...I can't deny it's very frustrating.

"They are very clinical, kept the scoreboard ticking over. They make one line break and score one try.

"It's hard to deny a team that is that clinical and disciplined."

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