Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Heaslip hands off any doubt over that try

Brian O'Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip depresses his formidable frame into a chair you reckon is at least one or two sizes too small. Still, he manages to retain his familiar languid air, a detached deportment that will fit like a snug glove this week while all around him Irish folk are slowly losing the run of themselves.

He's sipping some tea but ... Hullo, What's this? as the Famous Five's Julian might have exclaimed. He's holding the cup with TWO hands! Has he learned his lesson after last Saturday's potentially calamitous premature celebration?

No doubts about that try, then? "No, no doubts," he slurps confidently. A dressing-room mole had related how the former schoolteacher Declan Kidney had beckoned the meek pupil towards him for a curt rebuke.

On Monday, one of Kidney's able lieutenants, Alan Gaffney, chuckled his views into public.

"I didn't score that many when I played. And I liked to put it down with both hands."

Jerry Flannery gave us the players' view. "Ah, he got a bit of stick alright, a bit of ribbing for the hand in the air," he smiled.

"I'd say Deccy was the first to get in his ear afterwards."

Another mole from days of yore relates a tale that Heaslip, then a raw recruit with a tongue-stud, once fell asleep in a team meeting.

He has publicly denied that tale but, should he backbone a Grand Slam, the old maxim about deciding between printing the truth and legend may apply.

Heaslip is utterly relaxed about this week and his crucial try against the Scots — the second of a hugely influential championship which has propelled him to the front of the queue to confront the formidable Springbok back three this summer.

"I scored the try, so that's all I'm going to say on that," he says earnestly. Perhaps he HAS spent the previous 24 hours carrying everything in two hands.

"If you've seen me play with Leinster, you know that I've done that before and I've always scored. I don't really know what to say. I scored the try and I'm happy with that."

Of course, he's right but it's an interesting diversion in what promises to a mentally taxing week. Although, as Heaslip points out, the Irish squad's approach will remain utterly unchanged.

"It's business as per usual so far this week," he says.

"We'll probably feel the hype and all that when we get over there. There will be a good crowd and probably a bit of a buzz about the place, but right now? No. It's the same as any other day."

Ruby Walsh's heroics at Cheltenham ratcheted up the expectation levels last week.

"Ruby," he smiles. "Another good Kildare man!

"We can't control how much expectation people want to put on this game or how much weight they want to put behind it.

"All we can control is the way we prepare for the game, and then when we're in the game, how we play. Everything else, it's outside of our hands. I'm sure there will be a lot talked about it, a lot written about it, and all that kind of stuff. To be honest, the way you want to talk about it, the way you want to hype it up, that's what you gotta do."

While Heaslip may have escaped a lot of flak for his try-scoring technique, his role as entertainments officer has taken a bit of a buffeting in recent weeks. Especially after cocking up a potential private appearance from MOR kings of indie-lite, Snow Patrol.

"We were told that they might come in, and I said: 'Ah no, it's alright because we're going to see ye on Sunday night.' When the lads heard that ... it wasn't the greatest decision on my behalf, and that's why I have to ask two people when I make a decision from now on."

Maybe not on the field, though. Back to last weekend's try. It was his decision to thieve the line-out. His decision to take the line from the dashing Peter Stringer.

His decision to call for the pass, even if there was a split-second when he worried his colleague hadn't heard him.

"I just got the good line," he demurs. "I'm pretty sure Wally (David Wallace) was right on my tail, and I don't think Fez (Stephen Ferris) was too far behind. I just got the good line off the line-out. If it wasn't me it would have been one of the lads."

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