Six Nations: Heaslip raring to go but Ferris out
Published 09/02/2011 | 00:00
Last week, Irish rugby paused for breath as its supporters desperately hoped Jamie Heaslip would stay in Ireland.
This week, Irish rugby was similarly agog as it waited to see if Jamie Heaslip would play for Ireland.
The talismanic giant number eight's return to fitness continued apace in South Dublin yesterday; the firmness of his handshake and moon-shaped smile indicating a specimen raring to burst from the traps.
After a rigorous session in the RDS, the doubts shrouding his participation had been gleefully removed.
“We had felt earlier today we weren't in a position to name the team as there was too much doubt on the fitness of several players,” admitted manager Paul McNaughton ahead of today's announcement of the team to play France.
“But following training this afternoon, Andrew Trimble and Jamie Heaslip came through the session ok. We felt there was no need to actually hold off on selection, so we will go ahead as planned tomorrow.
“We were also able to confirm that Stephen Ferris is still not ready for a return to play and has been ruled out of the France game.”
After last week's dismal failure of an Ireland back-row that failed to gel, never mind failed to finish its shift thanks to Denis Leamy's slow walk in the game's pivotal period, urgent back-row alterations were required.
With Kidney maintaining his current predilection for a quasi-back-rower at scrum-half, the key now will be to ensure aerial prowess becomes a factor in the back three picks, not to mention an ability to engage team-mates as well the opposition tacklers.
Heaslip offers all of the above. A glance at the unchanged French team sheet will harden the resolve needed to conduct radical surgery on the Irish back-row.
Such was the limited variety of Irish lineout options last week, one would suspect Rory Best would be craving more targets beyond two and four, had he a mind to slip a suggestion note underneath the selectors' door.
“The first note I'd drop under the door would be for myself rather than anything else,” he smiles. Perhaps his own fallibility led to such conservatism from touch against Italy. “We have a lot of options across the back five.”