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Sunday 20 April 2014

Heaslip happy to play role of underdog

Jamie Heaslip. Photo: Sportsfile

France and England are the teams to beat in this year's Six Nations, according to Jamie Heaslip.

Speaking at the tournament launch in London, the Leinster No 8 also said he has received Brian O'Driscoll's full support since Declan Kidney's controversial captaincy change.

"I've captained the side (Leinster) before and Brian has been on the pitch, obviously," said Heaslip. "In November when Deccie asked me, he was one of the first guys that I rang.

"Deccie asked me on Wednesday night and when I went in on Thursday morning with Leinster, he (Brian) came straight up to me and shook my hand. He said he was 100pc behind me, if I need him for anything, any advice, any experience. It's great to have that. He's in the squad, I can lean on him."

Ireland play Wales in Cardiff on February 2 and England at home eight days later. A clearly energised Heaslip is relishing the prospect.

"I'm giddy now just thinking about it... You all know yourselves the buzz around the place, it's one of the best competitions to play in."

When asked who he thought would win the tournament, the new captain listed France and England as the "bookies' favourites," adding: "I don't mind being the underdog."

He said: "France had a good summer tour, had a good November Series, I'd the pleasure of playing against Clermont twice this year and they're going quite well. Italy keep on getting better, they are a very physical side. Wales, despite the results in the November Series, we know all too well are a very good side, and England had a tremendous November Series as well. I think it's wide open."

Looking ahead to the first game he said: "I always say you are what you do every day and if we train well, then hopefully consistency of play will be of a high standard as well.

"We have a lot of young guys, a couple of guys with no caps, guys with less than 10 caps, then there's guys with over 100 caps. We have a good eclectic mix of players there, we're just driving the standard of training up.

"A lot of people think they (Wales) are not on form from the November Series, but you look at most of their games, they were just a score or two away from quite a different series."

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