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Monday 11 December 2017

Jamie still runs right lines

Graft puts Heaslip in line for Try of the Tournament

Jamie Heaslip on his way to scoring Ireland’s third try during the Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium. Pics: Sportsfile
Jamie Heaslip on his way to scoring Ireland’s third try during the Six Nations match at the Aviva Stadium. Pics: Sportsfile

While England have won The Championship, Jamie Heaslip moved into the more personal territory of hot favourite for 'Try of the Six Nations'.

The No 8 took the shortest route between two points to get onto the shoulder of Fergus McFadden for a tremendous touchdown against Italy.

Apparently, he was driven on by the voice of coach Joe Schmidt inside his head.

"Someone asked me why I ran it and I probably ran it out of fear, to be honest. Having Joe pull me up on the big screen with the laser-pointer wouldn't exactly be a nice way to start Monday.

"But that kinda stuff is the intangible stuff where you just want to work hard," he said.

"We've asked a question over the last couple of weeks, the players to each other, how can we step up and work harder because you don't need any skill to step up and just work hard and run up-field."

The one thing that has set Heaslip apart during a stellar career has been his unwavering devotion to his craft. There is no more dedication professional in Irish rugby.

"We're taught, as a back row anyway, you've got to know the good cheat lines," he smiled.

"With the players that we have and the way we play, any time we make a line break you're just taught, 'get upfield'.

Shortest line

"It's the shortest line possible," he addded. "And if you're close to the ball you've got to get to the ball, but if you're not you run straight upfield.

"Sometimes you do it and you get absolutely nothing on the receiving end and sometimes you do get on the receiving end of something."

Heaslip's longevity and consistency at the top-end of international rugby could have something to do with his capacity to compartmentalise.

The Ireland number eight is not one to dwell or look back in anger or frustration, to allow the recent past move in on the present.

"It's just the way I kind of approach everything really," he said.

"Some things annoy you, some things don't; you've got to let them go. There's nothing you can do about it."

Where others may allow personal and/or collective disappointment to fester and infect, Heaslip is able to pack everything up neatly into boxes marked past, present and future.

"All players have different motivational factors," he said.

"It might be something that motivates another guy; trying to correct wrongs or going up against someone in their position they're trying to outshine.

"Mine is not any of them, it's just enjoying."

The perception is of a man with tunnel vision, seeing the road ahead clearly enough to not get distracted by any traffic outside or on the periphery.

"I'm sure all of you guys (journalists) would love the chance to wear an Ireland jersey. I'm lucky enough to have worn it a few times. I relish every chance that I get.

"It's something that, when I was eight watching Simon Geoghegan throwing a ball about in my house, I wanted so I just enjoy it."

When the shot at winning a third consecutive Championship went out the window, Heaslip was restored by the meaning of playing for his country.

"You go into everyone wanting to win it. You do," he said. "But when you don't, at the same time, you are still representing a lot.

"So it is not a case of - right we can't win it - so we go, 'right, I'm done'. We still have the chance to play at home, in front of a full crowd, wearing the jersey."

The walk into the Irish dressing-room at The Aviva never gets old, even though Paddy 'Rala' Reilly has retired.

John Moran is the new bagman of Ireland rugby.

"I love it. There's a particular moment when I come into the dressing room and John has all the jerseys facing you with all the numbers facing towards you.

"And I always love the moment when I turn the jersey around, see my name down the bottom right hand corner.

"For me, it is, 'right, this is my jersey for the day, I have got to do it right.'"

He almost always does.

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