Thursday 5 December 2019

Changing of guard will not alter expectations – Jamie Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip and his Leinster teammates are determined to retain their Pro12 trophy at the RDS on Saturday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Jamie Heaslip and his Leinster teammates are determined to retain their Pro12 trophy at the RDS on Saturday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

If you were to go back through each Leinster press conference this season, 'transition' would be one of the most frequently used words.

The departure of Joe Schmidt along with Johnny Sexton and Isa Nacewa paved the way for a new era that hasn't always got the credit it deserves this season.

Coaches and players move on, but the fundamental values of the province remain the same – that's according to Jamie Heaslip, who earlier this year turned down a lucrative move to France to ensure that he will be one of the chief leaders who will help ease Leinster into their next phase.

The long goodbyes of Leo Cullen and, in particular, Brian O'Driscoll will eventually come to an end this Saturday, but have expectations been altered for those that are left to carry the mantle forward?

"No. Never," Heaslip said. "We don't sit down and go 'okay, we want to win this or we want to win that'.

"Those days are gone. It's more about: what do we want to be known as? What do you want your team-mates to say about you?

"What do you want the guys who play against you to say about you and about your club?

"They're the things we try and build towards and judge ourselves on," he added.

In recent, more successful times, Leinster have judged their seasons on how full their trophy cabinet is come the end of May. But Heaslip is adamant that the province has already improved on last season.

"As a club, we've probably done better than we did last year."

"We didn't get out of our group in the Heineken Cup last year. We got out of our group this year and we're in the same situation in that we're in the Pro12 final again.

"We're one step ahead. Now, it boils down to the day and what happens on Saturday – if you want to compare years. But for me, there will be a time to look back on that stuff."

Despite Heaslip's argument, a large majority of Leinster fans would have you believe that their season, and, indeed, Matt O'Connor's maiden term at the helm, will be judged on what happens in the RDS on Saturday evening, but that is not a view that is shared among the squad.

"Is the trophy what we judge ourselves on? Not really," said Heaslip.

"We play to win. It's not a case of turning up at the weekend. It's a case of we'll get what we deserve. We go through the processes. We know our job. We execute. We play to our standard.

"That's how we measure ourselves. If we do the best we can and don't get the outcome, we can hold our hands up and be quite proud of what we've done."

That's not something that Leinster have had to do an awful lot in recent years, but this season's defeat to Toulon is one that stands out in the 30-year-old's mind.

Leinster were out-fought and outclassed by the French kingpins and, Toulon aside, Glasgow arrive in Dublin as Europe's form team.

"Toulon were the better team on the day. They deserved to win. We could probably say we didn't play the best we could and we put our hands up to that.

"You learn from those games as well. You also learn in tight games when you win, what level you have to go to. We've been in some helter-skelter games in finals and knockout situations.

"They (Glasgow) are all too aware from last year what it takes. There was nothing between the two teams in the RDS," he added.


Glasgow have won just once in their 18 visits to Dublin, but Heaslip wasn't going to be drawn on the notion of home comforts.

"It's not much comfort," he maintained.

"The momentum that they have from the last couple of games, they're not going to be afraid of coming over. And we're all too aware of the threats that they're going to pose. They're not going to be intimidated at all."

Glasgow, indeed, may not be intimidated by the prospect of facing the reigning champions in their own back yard, given that they have won their last nine consecutive league games, but their record of playing in the capital speaks for itself.

"A theme in the squad is all about what you do every day – you'll get the outcome you deserve. Nothing comes easy to anyone."

One of Heaslip's main roles over the next couple of years is to ensure that the next generation of players understand that Leinster's expectations don't ever change during periods of transition.

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