Sunday 25 February 2018

Heenan: Call-ups a big lift for squad

Connacht flanker Jake Heenan. Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile
Connacht flanker Jake Heenan. Photo: Paul Mohan/Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Connacht flanker Jake Heenan says Dave Heffernan's inclusion in Ireland's touring squad to Japan and USA can inspire other players within the province to do likewise down the line.

Hooker Heffernan (26) was named along with seven other uncapped players in the squad, and is one of the five Connacht players named by Joe Schmidt earlier in the week. The Ballina native is the latest player to step up from the Emerging Ireland squad.

The first game takes place in New Jersey on June 10 where Ireland face off against the USA Eagles. And then they tour future World Cup Pool A opponents and World Cup hosts in 2019, Japan, with games on June 17 and 24.

The Ballina native transitioned from the back-row to the front-row in recent seasons at Connacht and 2017-'18 was his most impressive season in the No 2 shirt, even though the reigning Guinness Pro12 champions struggled in the league, and failed to qualify from their pool in Europe.

Heenan, who is originally from New Zealand, is now eligible to play for Ireland seeing as he has played the game here for more than three years, and he has long been touted as a future international.

But for the moment the openside flanker is just delighted to have another Connacht player getting involved with the Irish set-up and he says it can only mean good things for the province in the long-term.

"It's awesome especially for a guy like Heff. He's a lovely guy to have around. He would be a close friend to all of the boys," said Heenan.

"It's always encouraging especially for young guys, guys coming through the academy to see someone like Heff, who does put in so much work during hours and after hours to reach such a big carrot and we are all delighted for him."

Irish Independent

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