Jamie Heaslip remaining positive and looking at silver lining
Leinster number eight hoping for early new year return but knows it’s not a certainty
Jamie Heaslip says a return in the new year would be “nice”. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho
“Yeah, but like that’s sport lads. You play the hand you are dealt,” says Jamie Heaslip.
The Irish number eight hasn’t played since March. He is the one player who never really had to talk about injury in the past and the player who doesn’t really want to talk about it in the present. That has been consistent.
On therugbypod.com he said he was hoping for a return early in the new year. So then, early in the new year?
“Early in the new year would be nice,” he says raising his eyebrows.
And so that would make the World Cup in Japan a huge aim.
“I’m contracted until 2019,” he explains.
Do you want to play in Japan?
“Obviously. Why would I be contracted to 2019 and not want to go to the World Cup in 2019?”
To be fair to Heaslip he is smiling. He has been bitten before by false hopes, remains private about what exactly is wrong with his lower back and defensive about when he may make a return. He allowed himself to see the silver lining when he first got the injury.
But it was an unrealistic deadline of September and it was missed. Now he sees no point in throwing out timelines when they don’t really exist. What he hopes to happen stays in his head.
“Let’s say you finish when you are 30 right,” he reasons. “You are probably going to live on average another 50 years. Those guys who have to finish through injury can live a good healthy life . . . there is a lot of life to live after rugby.
“I just hope the guys come out of it and they are not too banged up. Like I always joke to the players it will happen to me at some stage. The statistics, you can’t evade them.”
The Six Nations are a credible target if he slips into a Leinster team for a soft landing in the new year. There will be no drum rolls and trumpets for Heaslip but there is public interest in whether his 95 caps will be part of Joe Schmidt’s thinking. They are.
“In fairness, not that I don’t get a say in that, but I don’t pick the squad,” he says about the Six Nations. “You’d have to go ask Joe about that one and I’ve been talking to Joe and we have ideas and plans in our head and we’ll see how the cards fall.
“That’s as best as I can give you an answer. I don’t mean to be hard on it, but medical information, I’ve been quite clear about [keeping it private], return to play, I’ll be on the field when I’m fit and healthy.”
There is a coldly pragmatic side to Heaslip and he refuses to wallow in what is done and beyond his control. Other players he views the same way. It’s the risk they take. Now the player who never got injured is injured. Deal with it, he says.
“Lads, frustration was over two weeks after I got injured back in March,” he says.
“I don’t know where all these timelines came from. I never gave a timeline. But like the frustration, after about two weeks I probably let myself believe that I was going to be back, you know, sooner rather than later.
“When they let me realise that wasn’t the case, about two weeks after I got injured and we realised what was kind of unfolding, frustration passed then.
“I tend to be a fairly optimistic and I just looked at the silver lining, and at that time. That was that I was able to plan my holidays for the first time in 12 years.”
He swims in the cold water around Sandymount, Seapoint and Dalkey in South Dublin, thinks Jack Conan is doing well but has “things he has to get better on” and thought Ireland were clinical in the November Series but checks his effusiveness there.
“I don’t know if they were challenged as much as in previous encounters but you play the team that’s in front of you,” he says.
Heaslip is doing what he’s doing, will be back when he’s back. That is all you know and all you need to know.