Monday 20 November 2017

Jamie Heaslip leads from back row in Bath clash

Toulon lesson still serves as a timely reminder for Leinster

Jamie Heaslip
Jamie Heaslip

Toulon still hangs there like some sort of painting you bought in a market, but can't part with because it cost you too much.

It serves as a reminder of an expensive mistake made, never to be repeated.

"For me, in any conversations I've had about it, it gave lads experience of what happens when you're not accurate," said Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip.

"You go against Toulon, you make the mistakes that we did, especially in that first 40-50 minutes, they are going to score tries which they did.

"I rarely look back. But when that conversation does pop up, that's how it tends to go for me."

Leinster are one year further on down the road with Matt O'Connor at the wheel.

The coach has earned a 'one trophy in one season' addition to his stellar cirriculum vitae carved out at Leicester Tigers and the ACT Brumbies, while dealing with the retirements of Brian O'Driscoll, Leo Cullen and Isa Nacewa and the export of Jonathan Sexton.

Sean O'Brien has played one game for Leinster this season. No, not last week. Back in September.

Cian Healy has played out 257 minutes over six matches, not once completnig a full 80.

And still the criticism has flowed in his direction. Sometimes life isn't fair, especially in this cut-throat world when one man's fall generally signals the rise of another. Think Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss last Friday night.

It doesn't get any easier for the province to put a fourth European Cup in the cabinet.

"What's it like to have experience at this level? It's knowing that your coming up against bloody good sides.

"It's borderline with international rugby at times," continued Heaslip.

"The competition just keeps getting better and better every year. It amazes me. The margin for error on both sides of the ball is just closing.

"Unfortunately, we got a very bitter taste in our mouth from last year, from knowing that if we're not accurate teams are going to score."

There is something of the renegade about Bath in how they have made history already just by being here.

"Bath lose the first two games and they're in the quarter-finals. That hasn't been done before."

They have a quick gunslinger George Ford at out-half to fire passes or tease them out the back door to runners coming from deep.

Their attack is primarily based on a ball winning and penalty churning pack of forwards which provides the ball on a plate for Ford to dish it out.

"Bath are not that dissimilar (to Toulon) in terms of their ability to break the line, their ability to punish you if you don't have a good defensive set."

Ireland were able to shut down the multi-faceted Ford, the previously devastating Jonathan Joseph and twinkle-toes Anthony Watson when England came to The Aviva.

These are two different teams. True. They play differently to their national teams. True.

But, every poker player, good and great, has his tells, the body twitches and tendencies that allow opponents to counter their bold and brilliant moves.

You just have to spot them.

Ireland's Joe Schmidt turned the lights out on England. Can Leinster's Matt O'Connor play a winning hand too?


"England have different structures, Yeah they have similar players but they just play very, very differently and we play differently to Ireland, so you can't really compare them to be honest," said the Naas man.

"You can definitely get individual traits, but we would do that any way in our video work.

"Your individual player kits are on the system and you can go look at those guys. Some of the clips would be of them playing for England and some would be of them playing for Bath.

"Any good pro does his work, gets the video and analyses the guys they are going up against."

You can do all the background checks in the world. One fact holds true for Bath's fleet-of-foot.

"You don't want to be caught with a one on one with those backs and not know what they are up to.

"I just don't want to be caught one on one, in general," he laughed.

Heaslip will go where he has to go and do what he has to as part of his captaincy role.

"Once we're there we don't want too many chiefs on the field.

"We want lads to know the calls, go out and execute, do their job.

"In terms of my role, I kind of get a feel for the game, how it is going. Do we need to slow the pace down? Do we need to pick the pace up?

"But, you in terms of people calling, got the guys who call the line-outs, got the guys who call the moves.

"Now, it boils down into your head space in terms of winning that collision, your attitude in regard to that, but that's a different element to the game.

"You're talking about how simple the game is, that's the game right there.

Now, all Leinster have to do is find that accuracy.


leinster v bath: live sky sports 1 tomorrow 3.15

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