Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Ireland v France: We didn’t win but we’re on the right track, says Heaslip

Ireland's Sean O'Brien on the charge
Ireland's Jonathan Sexton
France's Lionel Nallet contests a lineout with Ireland's Donnacha O'Callaghan (left) during the International Match at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin

Ireland back row forward Jamie Heaslip was dismissive of a post-match suggestion that Ireland’s failure to secure a win might prove damaging to their World Cup preparations.



“We didn’t need a win,” the Leinster No 8 retorted. “Pre-season games are all about different things.

“We didn’t win but there are still a lot of things to take from it.”

His view as to what had gone wrong after a highly impressive start which saw Ireland lead 8-0 after 10 minutes was: “They (France) held on to the ball very well in the second 20 (minutes) of the first half.

“They just controlled the second half of the first half very well. It was kinda hard to get the ball and it’s never easy to defend for as long as we did.”

Heaslip also highlighted Ireland’s strong finish which saw them score and convert two tries in the final five minutes to end the match just four points shy of parity.

“I think we came back into it when we held onto the ball and went through a few phases. We did some good things – two tries in the last 15 (minutes) is good going,” he ventured.

With Heaslip knowing he was guaranteed inclusion in Ireland’s 30-man World Cup squad named today, he insisted there had been neither tension nor anxiety in the camp at Carton House, Maynooth, in the countdown to D-Day.

“No, not at all,” he said. “If there is, no-one’s showing it. There’s no sort of tension, no sort of bad blood. Everyone’s in good spirits.”

There was recognition of the enormity of Saturday’s events however when he added: “Obviously people are a little bit nervous because it’s a big decision that has to made by somebody else so it’s out of your own hands.”

With Ireland’s line-out having been a problem area in the previous two World Cup warm-up Tests in Edinburgh and Bordeaux, Heaslip reckoned Saturday had seen a big improvement.

He and thrower Rory Best appeared to have a good, working relationship in that area, something to which the big jumper alluded when he said: “I think it went well today; worked pretty well, yeah.”

He also drew encouragement from the improved start Ireland had made.

“I think we started the game better and showed what we can do when we hold on to the ball and bring things through phases,” Heaslip said.

“Guys got game time which is vital,” he continued, in his pursuit of positives. “I was happy that I got 80 (minutes), even though I was blowing out of my arse after 20!”

Paying tribute to France he acknowledged: “I think they defended well, I can’t take away from how they played. But when we were direct and held onto the ball and went through phases I think we made some inroads.”

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