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Heaslip to lead new era at Blues


Jaime Heaslip

Jaime Heaslip

Jaime Heaslip

Leinster coach Matt O'Connor described the choice of Jamie Heaslip to be his captain this season as "a pretty easy decision".

Despite his 'Big Easy' media image, the indestructible number eight is known as an ultra-professional who trades on being the first at training and the last out of it.

"The feeling was that he's done the job before; he's an unbelievable professional in the environment and he rarely misses a game," touted O'Connor.

"He plays every week. He trains every session. He's fantastic in the environment and I think Sean O'Brien and Rob Kearney in the vice-captaincy roles will tick all the boxes for us in that leadership scenario".

Leinster's new forwards coach Leo Cullen was reading from the same page: "Listen, it was a no-brainer.

"I think Jamie pretty much did the role last year. He is such a consistent performer for us and he's been such an integral part of everything that's been good about the team over the last six, seven, eight years.

"He has been a massive help to me over the last couple of years. I would like to think he was more the captain of the team last year and I was just trying to assist him in that process.

"As a professional, he is unbelievable. The attention to detail that he brings, that sort of first-in, last-out mentality.

"He does everything he can to prepare himself to be as good as he can be. He is the best man for the job for us."

The listing of Kearney and O'Brien as vice-captains confirms an elite three-pronged international leadership resource that will go a long way towards replacing the retirements of Cullen and Brian O'Driscoll.

Once the international window arrives in November, Leinster will look to divvy up the role between three veterans of club and international rugby.

The likes of Shane Jennings and Isaac Boss and Kevin McLaughlin have, according to O'Connor, "probably slipped out of test reckoning" could be around to lead in the absence of Heaslip.

O'Connor has not given up on the idea of having Gordon D'Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald, Sean Cronin back for the Guinness PRO12 League opener against Glasgow.

Wing Dave Kearney and hooker Richardt Strauss will, more than likely, have to wait until October before they can put on their game faces.

Meanwhile, Cullen views the pre-season clash at English Premiership champions Northampton Saints this Saturday as one where the performance will definitely overshadow the result.

"I know over there two years ago, we took a pretty heavy defeat there.

"The result is not really that relevant for us. It is just about how guys cope, who comes to the fore and how they handle the different pressures of playing against those quality players.

"It won't be a be-all, end-all game. Hopefully, we'll learn a few interesting things."