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Jamie Heaslip: Don't treat the All Blacks as if they're invincible

By Niall Crozier

Ireland back row forward Jamie Heaslip gets the importance of not making supermen of the All Blacks. Do that and you're beaten before setting foot on the pitch.

That will be his mindset tomorrow afternoon at the Aviva Stadium where he will be facing Kieran Read, currently the best No 8 in the world.

When Leinster colleague Devin Toner asked Heaslip how many times he had played against the All Blacks, the back row forward's reply was: "Four or five, I think."

Explaining the circumstances in which their conversation had been conducted, Heaslip said: "We were talking about the challenge ahead of us."

That challenge is daunting. In Heaslip's opinion, the most important part of facing it is that you don't allow yourself to be overawed.

So although he knows enough about the All Blacks to hold them in the highest regard, he was keen to stress the difference between respect and fear. Display any of the latter and these guys will sniff it out like a tracker dog.

"They are not untouchable," he stressed. "Like any other top side they are very smart, they are very accurate and they have very good players as well. It's a good mix.

"But like every other team, there are a lot of strengths but there are a couple of chinks as well. We have to come up with a game-plan to exploit those small chinks, however small they might be against a team like the All Blacks, and have that belief to carry it out and be really, really accurate in our actions to execute it.

"Hopefully put them on the back foot when we have the ball and have other belief and control when we don't have the ball."

Heaslip has no time for treating the Kiwis as anything other than a very good, consistent, efficient side whose success stems from their ability to do the basics properly. There is no room for any mystique which others may feel surrounds Steve Hansen's team.

"At this level, I really don't think from a professional player's point of view there would be much mystery as such about them," he replied when asked if opponents see New Zealand as being more than an international rugby team.

"I know what you mean, the shroud that surrounds the All Blacks and they have created a very good team, culture, following and they are held in such high regard in rugby and in New Zealand," Heaslip continued.

"But all the players that are here have all played big games at this stage, in finals, semi-finals, big Heineken Cup games. I know they are not the same as internationals, but with that experience they are getting at those levels, once they bring it on, it's another challenge.

"Yes, it's a big challenge but there is no mystery about it. You go about your work the same way you do any other team. You do your video work on them, on different players, on your training. You go through the game plan, you do a bit of mind-gym away from the field to make sure you know exactly what you're doing.

"You go through the routine you go through; you just know come match day you've got to be ready to execute; you've got to be on top of your game. Against a team like them, you make a mistake and they are very, very good at punishing you."

And with that he was off to continue preparing for the toughest challenge in world rugby.

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