Jamie Heaslip 'felt like third wheel' at Lions celebrations
Published 05/09/2013 | 05:00
Jamie Heaslip has claimed he was "p****d off" with Lions coach Warren Gatland's decision to drop him for the series-clinching third Test against Australia in Sydney last July.
Heaslip, who faces a battle to retain his Irish captaincy after incoming coach Joe Schmidt admitted this week that his choice won't necessarily be a long-term option, said he "didn't want to be there" as the Lions celebrated their victory.
"I very much felt like a third wheel, to be honest," he added. "I'll look back on it one day and say, 'You know what, I played in two out of three of those Tests,' but at the time I didn't want to be there.
"I remember walking around and I kept my distance from the lads celebrating. I wasn't really getting into any photos or anything like that.
"John Feehan (CEO of the Lions) came over to me and said, 'You gotta smile, you're part of this, it's not just a one-day thing.' I think John was feeling for me a bit and he did his best to pick my spirits up. But it was a very tough moment.
"When I came home everybody was like, 'Well done on the Lions tour – but isn't it terrible about Brian?' I was like, 'Yeah, I feel for the guy.'
"Brian is on a different level to everybody else in terms of public affection in Ireland. He's like royalty, so I wasn't surprised at the reaction.
"We trained after the squad was announced on the Wednesday morning and that was my last session. I didn't have to go to any meetings. I pulled myself back.
"The guys not in the 23 withdrew to a degree to allow the lads to focus on what they had to do. We obviously supported the guys but we kept our distance because we needed a little head space too."
Although he clearly disagreed with Gatland's decision, Heaslip (left) explained in the latest issue of 'Rugby World' that he bears no grudges against Toby Faletau, who toppled him from the starting line-up.
"I roomed with Toby before the first Test. Toby is an absolute gent, such a nice guy, and I can only say good things about him," he said.
"I have nothing against him, but I would have argued for a different decision. But what's the point? You gotta go with it. You fall, you dust yourself off and you go again."