Ireland’s maverick number eight fails to score with rugby’s clubbable stuffed shirts

Jamie Heaslip may be unorthodox but he also qualifies as an exceptional backrow forward

Jamie Heaslip: Enjoying a down day on the summer tour to Argentina. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Jamie Heaslip: Enjoying a down day on the summer tour to Argentina. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Mon, Jun 16, 2014, 11:44

Forget Bod and Paulie and Rog. Forget Johnny Sex and Cian – I can draw as well – Healy. Forget about Schmidt. As for Hooky – if only: no the most intriguing character in Irish rugby right now has to be Jamie Heaslip. Anyone who pees off so many rugger types has to be doing something right.

We got treated to headline news from Argentina last week about Jamie being less than thrilled when corralled into a press conference at eight in the morning.

Maybe he’d a head on him from a skinful of Gancia the night before, although it’s doubtful: Heaslip is renowned as a consummate professional. Maybe he’s a lazy ass in the morning, although that’s hardly an easy profile fit either for one of the most decorated players Ireland has produced. Maybe he’d tripped over a chinchilla on the way in. Who knows.

Or maybe, and this is just a wild guess, maybe he wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of spouting platitudes to a roomful of hacks, many of whom it’s safe to assume aren’t exactly warm towards Jamie in the first place.

In fairness to the hackery they don’t appear to be alone in this. Heaslip is viewed warily by rugby types in general. Maybe it’s the Jamie. Al Murray’s landlord famously allows most derivatives of James into his pub, but no Jamies. Except that’s more an Anglo prejudice.

Maybe it’s a more Irish lack of an O. Irish rugby’s holy trinity has long been O’Connell-O’Driscoll-O’Gara: all three reverentially indulged, to the extent that cartoon Cork gets sketched as complicated, Sinatra-length farewells are milked to the mastitic maximum and flogging bread-line electricity becomes a giggle.

 

In contrast, Heaslip, despite being similarly decorated, a former captain of the national team and globally renowned as one of the best number eights on the planet, gets tut-tutted as the regrettable commercial face of modern rugby when he helps flog a few jeeps.

Sure enough the spin from Argentina was that Jamie has no trouble being charming to the media when it suits him. And he said he was looking forward to his holliers so he can “get away from you guys”. The bastard!

Trivial stuff, but it is odd that one of the greatest players Irish rugby has produced appears not yet fully embraced within the game’s manly bosom? I say yet, because you never know. The media horizon is crammed with former star performers who famously scorned a parasitic fourth estate only to subsequently grasp the easy prattle buck and change into cuddly treasures.

Heaslip might yet make the leap also, but it will be a hell of a jump. There’s some real vitriolic stuff out there. Munster fans famously like their “liginds” down to earth and seem to have decided Heaslip is the epitome of Leinster up itself. In fact some of the more extreme social media verdicts suggest Cristiano Ronaldo might be a model of decorous restraint compared to the Ireland number eight.

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