Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Heaslip: Losing hurts more as skipper

Jamie Heaslip is pleased with the way he is playing

Jamie Heaslip is satisfied with his form and leadership but admits to taking Ireland's defeats more personally now that he is captain.

The number eight has endured a challenging first RBS 6 Nations in charge after replacing Leinster colleague Brian O'Driscoll as skipper before the championship. Harebrained defeats to England and Scotland have meant toppling France at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday is essential to escape a likely wooden-spoon showdown with Italy a week later.

Heaslip's own performances have been criticised, as has the rudderless look to Ireland during spells of the Six Nations, but the 29-year-old insists results cut more deeply than any vilification from outside the camp. "In 2008 I stopped listening to or reading the rugby side of sport and I can't wait to start again when I finish rugby," he said.

"But when I'm playing I don't pay attention to it. The captaincy has been great, I've loved it. You obviously have to do more of the media and you do feel more responsible for the team.

"When you come off the field as a player you analyse your own game, but as a captain you feel more responsible for the team.

"When I came off the pitch against Scotland I was quite happy with the way I played, with my carries and getting through quite a bit of work. But then as a team I'm disappointed that we lost, so it's a weird one. You have to think about the others.

"I never like to lose, but you do take the defeats a lot more personally when you're captain. It weighs on your shoulders more because you feel that little bit more responsible."

There was positive news regarding fly-half Paddy Jackson's fitness on Wednesday evening after he came through training following a minor hamstring strain. The 21-year-old took part in a normal kicking routine at the Aviva Stadium, meaning he is in line to be selected for Saturday's match.

"Jackson came through as expected and will train fully with the squad tomorrow," read an Irish Rugby Football Union statement.

Uncapped Leinster fly-half Ian Madigan was also part of Wednesday's practice session. Ireland head coach Declan Kidney left the number 10 slot blank at Tuesday's team announcement to assess the fitness of Jackson.

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