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Captains' Duel firing Heaslip

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Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip (L) and Stade Francais captain Sergio Parisse.Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip (L) and Stade Francais captain Sergio Parisse.Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip (L) and Stade Francais captain Sergio Parisse.Picture: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Leinster captain Jamie Heaslip will tangle with Stade Francais's talismanic leader Sergio Parisse in a mouth-watering individual battle this evening.

Ireland's number eight and his Italian counterpart have gotten up close and personal with each other at international level over the years.

The respect from Heaslip is clear: "I've played against him numerous times, I think it might be the first time at club level. He's a great player and lovely man on and off the field. I can only say high words about him.

"We all know about the different skills he brings to the game and the leadership that he shows both for Stade Francais and Italy.

"He's going to be a massive challenge for me, as my counterpart, and for us as a back row to match up against their back-row unit. He's a serious source of go-forward momentum for them."

Of course, this Irish-French affair is more than just about the one-on-one duels. It is also about those who will leave Leinster at the close of the season.

Coach Joe Schmidt and players Jonathan Sexton, Isa Nacewa, Heinke van der Merwe, Tom Sexton, Damian Browne, Jamie Hagan, Fionn Carr and Mark Flanagan will all undergo life-changing experiences this summer.

"I've been with this group of players for a couple of years now. There's eight guys from the squad who are leaving," said Heaslip.

"We've kind of talked about it this week and last week, that it's the second last game that this squad is going to be together. It will never be the same again.

"So we're kind of cherishing these moments and it's an honour to have the chance to lead these guys out for one of the (last two) games.

"It's great that there's going to be silverware at the end of the game, potentially."

Heaslip was not about to get sucked into the pressure game, Leinster's pressure to keep on winning trophies, Stade Francais's pressure to win any trophy.

"I don't think so, not at all. If you see their games against Bath and Perpignan, they're loving this competition.

"We've seen them celebrate when they beat Perpignan and they really want to come here and play. They really want to win this for that reason – it's their way into Europe for next year.

"It's a bit of silverware at the end of the season too. Like I said, it's a long season, and it's great to be playing for something at the end of the year.

"You're going to have two teams going for it out there and no one's going to be holding back at all. We're quite focused on the process and, hopefully, we'll get the outcome."


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