Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby World Cup

Back-row record breaker Jamie Heaslip enjoying the moment

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

The World Cup becomes a little more real this afternoon, moving from a date on the diary somewhere in the future to the here and now.

For a number of players who will emerge beneath the Millennium Stadium roof today, this might be as good as it gets.

Ireland and Wales will play for a makey-uppy trophy in Cardiff, but the sponsors are not fooling anyone. The result will barely last in the memory - this one is all about a performance.

Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland will use the fixture to help them with the process of trimming their squads back to the 31 required for the tournament.

By the time the two teams meet again in Dublin in three weeks' time, some of those who play today will already have been informed that they're surplus to requirements. For those near the cut mark, this is moving day.

Of the match-day 23 selected by Schmidt, there are at least 10 players who are in danger of missing out, and the challenge for them is to produce a performance that enhances their individual reputations while contributing to the collective effort.

One of those who, barring injury, is guaranteed a place on the plane is captain Jamie Heaslip, who becomes Ireland's most capped back-row today.

And yet that landmark is bittersweet for the Naas native, who holds the man he is replacing, David Wallace, in high regard. The Munster openside would have won more than his 72 caps had he not suffered a career-ending knee injury in a warm-up game in 2011.

"I've been in a situation where I've trained for a World Cup and not gone (in 2007) and I've been in a situation where I've trained and gone (in 2011), so I've experienced both outcomes that can happen," he said.

"I've also experienced seeing someone who was on the plane, playing the last game and coming to him in the changing-room and he's had a career-ending injury.

"The only thing I can tell people is just enjoy that moment, and live in that moment. Because ifs, buts and maybes are great things to talk about off the field, but on the field it's all about the now.

"It's a bit up in the air, but that's the way you have to live it and then that's how you enjoy it.

"To paraphrase (Superbowl winning quarter-back) Peyton Manning: 'pressure is for people who are unprepared, who don't know what they are doing'.

"So a lot of lads can take all that (World Cup squad pressure) away, just hammer down their knowledge and know exactly what they have to do and just go out and play. They're good players. That's why they're here."

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph