Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Ireland have plenty of time to reach high standards again, inists Ireland star

As the clock ticks towards the World Cup and Ireland's flawed fundamentals continue to mock pretensions to develop an expansive game plan, Jamie Heaslip has declared stridently that his side can live up to their lofty aspirations.



“It is the launch pad of any team,” the pack leader says about the setpieces which forwards coach Gert Smal had just so publicly lambasted minutes earlier.

“A good line-out will go a long way, a good scrum as well. The scrum is the best attacking platform for a back-line, especially a back-line like ours.

“We have time. The games with Ireland, the camps — six or seven weeks alone during the Six Nations — and time spent during the summer; we have plenty of time to get the basics right.

“If you want to win a World Cup you have to turn up seven weeks in a row and play at a consistently high standard. That's what we are striving to do.”

Argentina are not the best team to be facing when your basics are scraping the barrel of limited effectiveness; their aggressive physicality and stifling defence will pose pertinent questions.

“Yeah they're big boys,” agrees Heaslip, whose first clash with Argentina in 2007 wasn't effective enough, bizarrely, to propel him into Ireland's last World Cup squad.

“The thing about playing Argentina is that they close down a lot of your space, so the ability to go side to side or throw it about isn't there as much as you'd want it to be in a game. You've got to go through them to earn the right to go around them.”

With a grizzled Puma front-row likely to be combining for the 16th time in internationals, Sunday's Test will be as much a mental challenge as a physical one, especially with the talented Doctor Felipe Contepomi pulling the strings.

“Ah Felipe! I don't know what to expect from him,” Heaslip smiles when his Heineken Cup-winning colleague's name is mentioned.

“I'll definitely be keeping a close eye on him because, in my experience, even when he's tackled he's not out of the game — he can throw in an unbelievable offload or wriggle himself out of tackles the whole time.

“My experience of Felipe is that he's an unbelievably passionate man in whatever team he plays for. He's probably going to be captain on Sunday and that's going to be a massive honour for him.

“So he's going to lead by example, playing with passion and pride. He's got that bit of Latin blood, that bit of heat in him, but there's never a bad bone in him that's for sure.”

Heaslip is more concerned with ensuring that Ireland at least manage to achieve a measure of equality in terms of this autumn series; it would be difficult to explain progress with only one scruffy victory to show for a month's endeavour.

“I think it is unfair to say which game we're happier with because they were all very different types of games. I'll say Samoa because we won.

“I don't like to play in any game that's nice to watch but you lose. I don't really know what else to say. I find more satisfaction in winning than losing.”

Given Ireland's dreadful run of results, sacrificing their ambitious game plan may be the price to pay in order to feel the ultimately more tangible currency of victory and success.

“I will win a game any which way possible,” Heaslip says with a strong sense of determination. “That's the way I was raised.”

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