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Ireland v Italy Six Nations: Heaslip sets his sights on elusive World Cup joy in 2019

Ireland v France, Saturday, February 25, 4.50pm

Before he heads off into the sunset at the end of his career, Jamie Heaslip wants it all.

The Ireland No.8's CV is lacking one remaining major trophy and, having signed on with the IRFU until the 2019 World Cup, he is now determined to add the William Webb Ellis Cup to his collection to complete the set.

The 33-year-old signed the deal to remain with Leinster and Ireland last week and yesterday spoke about his decision for the first time, citing the culture and the IRFU's player welfare scheme as plus points.

Although he did keep his mind open, the draw of a move abroad didn't seem to turn Heaslip's head as much this time.

Three years ago, he was close to a move to Toulon but this time the word was always that he was likely to stay, and so it came to pass.

After lifting three European Cups, a Challenge Cup, a couple of PRO12s, a Grand Slam, two further Six Nations titles and a Lions series, the 2019 World Cup is looming large on his horizon.

"There is one thing I haven't won that I would like to win," he said ahead of France's visit to the Aviva Stadium in the Six Nations.

"I would like to add a couple of more things to what Leinster have won as well.

"I like winning. I think any professional player that has ambition (does). I have been lucky to have a lot of success in my career. It actually makes you hungry for more.

"It makes all the crazy stuff that we do, sacrifice-wise, family-wise, friends-wise, pay off in a big, big way. That is something that drives me.

"Everyone involved wouldn't be involved if they didn't have those ambitions. But you have got to work back from there - even if you got in a position where, say, you are in the final there are still a lot of things out of your control for that to happen.

"It comes back to what we can do today, build on that tomorrow. You might have that long-term ambition but one thing I have learned is that when you start looking down the road, it is the thing in front of you that kills you, so you have to keep your eye in front of you and what's going on."

Although he was reluctant to get into any specifics around his reasons for staying, Heaslip is comfortable with the call to stay.

"I am happy with my decision. I have been lucky enough to visit other places, sporting environments, not necessarily rugby, and Leinster is one of the best facilities out there," he said.

"We are very lucky we have some of the best coaches right now in our club, best strength and conditioning, amenities and a really strong culture and identity. Culture goes a long way.

"You can have all the money in the world but not any culture. For sustained success for an organisation or a club, that's really important going forward.

"And then, on top of that, you have the IRFU who are being really progressive and proactive in looking after their players.

"They're really, really proactive and there's a good relationship between country and club.

"Obviously it is all geared towards the national team going well but not to the detriment of the clubs and there's a very good relationship and balance there.

"I guess it's not easy at times but I've had a very good experience over the last 12 years in Leinster and Ireland.

"I'm just really lucky to be able to crack on and give it another lash for what is just over another two years."

For all that he is looking to the future, the obstacle facing Heaslip in the short-term is a sizeable one in the hulking shape of France ace Louis Picamoles.

"I've played enough against Louis and seen enough tape on him to know he is a good player," said Heaslip. "He is a big man, surprisingly dynamic. He is a great footballer. I don't think he gets enough credit actually for being footballer. Some people just think he is a huge man.

"He's able to assess the flow of the game, the dynamic of the game where the opportunities lie in it.

"He has got a great array of skills and assets and is a very hard man to take down.

"Even if you do tackle him and stop his momentum, he is such a big man he always manages to get an offload as well and keeps that point of attack moving, which as the defending side is quite hard as you have no ruck to set your system from and it always makes it that bit harder to defend against.

"This year we had him against Northampton. You can see he is doing good things with that team and is bringing that form through.

"He is definitely one of the top No.8s out there."

Belfast Telegraph

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