Jamie Heaslip, scorer of Ireland’s first try as their defence of the Grand Slam got underway with Saturday’s win over the Italians at Croke Park, saw enough to give him confidence ahead of next weekend’s date with the French in Paris.
He was delighted with the front row, saw cause for optimism in a scrum which was criticised during the autumn but on Saturday more than held its own against opponents noted for their ferocity in that setpiece and had words of praise and encouragement for debutant flanker, Kevin McLaughlin, who deputised for the injured Stephen Ferris.
“Cian (Healy) and John (Hayes) did a great job and then Tom (Court) came on and played really well in forcing a penalty,” the Leinster and Lions No. 8 enthused.
“The front five did a great job and the back row did what we could in the scrum. I think it was a great effort by the pack.”
He was more than happy with the performance of first-timer McLaughlin, underlining his confidence in the Leinster number six’s ability by revealing that he had not felt the need to nurse him through.
“The only thing I said to him (before the game) was just to keep doing what you’ve been doing. That’s what he did,” he said.
“We just talked like normal out on the pitch about a few different things.
“He’s a big enough and bad enough boy who knows how to get round the pitch and do his job.”
Heaslip did, however, reckon that Ireland had perhaps “lost our shape a little in the second half”.
“When we did create quick ball we were very dangerous, so we’ll just have to work on that as well and be a bit more clinical around the rucks with the clean out and everything,” he said.