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Heaslip full of praise for impact of coach Easterby

By Cian Tracey

He may barely have his feet under the table in his new role as Ireland forwards coach but Simon Easterby's presence alone in the camp has already had a positive effect on the squad. That's according to Jamie Heaslip, who admits that having a former team-mate involved in the backroom team can act as a huge motivation for players.

Easterby is set for his first game in his new role since leaving the Scarlets and, despite the fact that his predecessor John Plumtree enjoyed a very successful year with Ireland, Heaslip believes that the 39-year old will build on and indeed improve the forward pack.

"It does help (having previously played with coaches). They've been in the trenches with you. I'm not taking away from coaches that haven't played or anything like that but they've been in those moments in the lineout," the No 8 quipped.

"They know what it's about. It's great to have someone who has been there with you. Simon's played in massive games and had huge success at international level.

"I'm lucky, at Leinster I work with a forwards coach I played with (Leo Cullen) and now, with Simon, I'm in that position too.

"He's very much brought his own flavour to it. With the scrum, we have the same direction with Feekie (Greg Feek, scrum coach) there," Heaslip added.

"Simon has come in to run the forwards and has brought a different kind of thought process to the lineout. I think our lineout was operating very well over the last year and Simon will try and bring that to another level."

More pressing matters for Heaslip will be quelling the attacking threat of South Africa's Duane Vermeulen, who he reckons is the form No 8 in world rugby right now.

"He brings a lot to the table. He's a very good player and I'd say he was probably the best eight in the Rugby Championship."

Heaslip went up against the Stormers player two years ago in Ireland's 16-12 defeat to the Springboks and it's not a game that carries many happy memories for him despite it being the first time he captained his country. He recalled: "I got sin-binned. We went pretty close but it wasn't great."

Rory Best has been ruled out of Ireland's autumn Test opener against South Africa in Dublin on Saturday.

The Ulster hooker, who has won 77 caps, is sidelined due to a calf muscle strain.

Leinster forward Sean Cronin is now likely to start against the Springboks after 32-year-old Best became Ireland's latest front-row injury casualty following props Cian Healy, Martyn Moore and Nathan White.

Tighthead prop Mike Ross, meanwhile, is battling to be fit after a month out with groin trouble, although he returned to training on Tuesday.

"Following a medical review yesterday evening, Rory has been ruled out of selection for the game against South Africa," the Irish Rugby Football Union said in a statement.

"His calf strain has been slower to heal than expected.

"He is partaking in modified training, but a decision has been made not to risk him this weekend, and his progress will continue to be monitored."

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