Quick healer Jamie Heaslip relieved to be ready for Millennium Stadium challenge

Ireland’s experienced number eight praises Warren Gatland’s coaching nous

Jamie Heaslip is the only change to the Irish team for Cardiff, as the team is announced in Carton House. Ireland go into the match on a ten match unbeaten run. Video: Daniel O'Connor

 

The ennui around Carton House gets lifted by Jamie Heaslip’s print media dance. The 31-year-old brings the engaging, cheery side of his personality into the room.

He is asked about the three cracked vertebrae caused by Pascal Pape’s abusive knee on February 14th. Caught on replay by Wayne Barnes (more from him later), a yellow card and subsequent 10-week ban permanently ended the French lock’s Six Nations. Heaslip the healer returns within a month.

“I could walk, I wasn’t actually that bad. A lot of it was, be it good or bad, blown out of proportion. We’ve Eanna Falvey here, who’s an amazing doctor. We’ve all the backroom staff, John Ryan, who was in St Vincent’s as well. I literally hopped in the car with John, brought straight to St Vincent’s, got a CT scan straight away, went in the next morning for a follow-up CT scan. Eanna was on top of things as well all the physios.

Iron bar

“At the end of the week, I was trotting around. I progressed pretty quickly which they were all surprised about. I was good to go.”

Fully recovery within four weeks is amazing. Fractured vertebrae sounds so nasty.

“The reason I came off in the game was because the incident happened and I was ‘okay that’s done.’ In my head, it was just like getting a dead leg, ‘just run and you will be fine. Just run. It’ll be grand.’

“We kicked to a maul. I lifted in the lineout. I couldn’t get myself down into a good position. I was caught up high at the maul. It went a couple of phases. There was a five-man lineout. I was actually out. The ball came over the back. Normally, I would dive on those scraps straight away. I, literally, couldn’t bend over. Thank God, Rory (Best) was there. He scooped in and cleaned it up.

“I turned around straight away and said: ‘Right lads, I’m a liability here.’ I had to come off. Once I stopped running, it tightened right up.”

Next he is asked a question about the coaching styles of Joe Schmidt and Warren Gatland.

“I’d say Joe is probably a bit more hands-on than Gats. That’s the first thing that comes up to mind. They’re both equally savvy, I suppose, and intelligent when it comes to formulating game-plans.

Different things

“Gats would stand back a lot more and direct another coach underneath. And you’d have more dealings with Gats away from the field or in meetings rather than on the field. You’d be dealing with the coaches more. It’s not to say that he wouldn’t step in on the training field. I just think that would be a distinct enough difference between them.”

What about Barnes? Heaslip, without prompting, mentions the red card for kneeing an offside Richie McCaw in the head in 2010 and the sin-binning on his first outing as Ireland captain against South Africa in 2012.

Rugby players have awfully long memories, mostly the dark memories, but it’s by no means a grudge. You could hear Heaslip wise-cracking, and Barnes laughing, on the ref-link after Mathieu Bastareaud had bowled into the Naas man last month.

“But I actually get on with him and have chatted away to him off the field. On the field he is quite direct and I like the way he makes a decision and that’s it. . .

Modern referees need to be huge characters?

“They have to be strong characters. As long as they are consistent players don’t mind. They all have their own traits.”

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