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Heaslip still hanging on


Leinster's Jamie Heaslip. Picture: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Jamie Heaslip. Picture: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Jamie Heaslip. Picture: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Sean O'Brien did last week. Paul O'Connell did this week. Keith Earls too.

All that is left is for 30-year-old Jamie Heaslip to put pen-to-paper on a new deal that will keep him at Leinster to show that there is more than money at stake.

There is a place for home and heart, even in the ruthless business of professional rugby where near future earnings have to be balanced out against work-life considerations.

The process whereby the best-paid player in Irish rugby has had to absorb the current financial status of the Irish Rugby Football Union against his own personal wishes for remuneration has been stretched to breaking point.

"Unfortunately, there is a business side to this game people sometimes aren't aware of," said Heaslip yesterday.

"There's been a lot of talk about different players in terms of their contracts and this, that and the other. Unfortunately, it has dragged out much longer than I wanted and it seems to be ongoing."

It is true what Leinster coach Matt O'Connor has already said, merely that this is part and parcel of the furniture that comes with contract negotiations.

In 2012, Heaslip moved agency from Fintan Drury's Platinum One to Ikon, a talent management company part-owned by Brian O'Driscoll and his longtime best friend Damien O'Donohoe, a former contract lawyer.

When someone like Heaslip is buying time to improve his bargaining position with the IRFU or Toulon, the pressure to perform is there in every live minute.


If anything, it is a motivation to show Leinster and Ireland what they will be missing should the IRFU not come up to the acceptable salary scale for Heaslip.

"It hasn't been a distraction for me," he said.

"That's why I have an agent to deal with that and I can just play rugby. And that's what I have been doing. He'll do his job and I'll do mine."

What makes Heaslip so coveted as an elite international number eight is the indestructible nature of his physical make-up.

While Sean O'Brien has had serious hip and shoulder trouble, the two-tour British & Irish Lions forward is as close to guaranteed game time as you can get.

Unlike O'Brien, the Naas man, born in Israel, has always pushed a nomadic image as someone who marches to the beat of his own drum.

The time could be right for him to become immersed in a new culture, for greater financial benefit at a club where winning trophies is not just a motivation.

It is the stated minimum level of expectation from owner Mourad Boudjellal, who has invested millions into his version of the rugby 'galacticos'.

Heaslip has reportedly been to Toulon to take a look at what they have to offer and he will get an up close and personal view of them for Leinster in the Heineken Cup quarter-final on the first weekend in April.

"We have to go away and get a win which in the Heineken Cup is always difficult," he said.

"I mean we had some great experience over the last couple of years, especially in this group in going away and winning. We're going to the current champions in their back garden."

Toulon can draw on a deep and meaningful well of players containing 28 internationals, eight from France, six Springboks, four from England, four All Blacks, two from Australia, two from Georgia, one from Italy Martin Castrogiovanni and one from Argentina, Juan Fernandez Lobbe.

They have a budget the IRFU can only have nightmares about, the lure of the south of France and the title of European champions.


In contrast, Leinster have already been dealt a potentially fatal blow by the apparent loss of Sean O'Brien for April and the possible departure of Heaslip next season, two men that would truly take Leinster into a transitional period.

Coach Matt O'Connor will keep all fingers and toes crossed that his frontline players, Heaslip, Cian Healy, Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald, Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy get through the upcoming Six Nations without serious physical repercussions.

"It is going to be a massive challenge for our team and is going to be a headache for our coaches over the Six Nations," said Heaslip.

"They have a bit of time to formulate a plan, I suppose. We're all looking forward to it in the club."