Sport Rugby

Sunday 19 November 2017

Heaslip can fire Ireland into semis -- Brooke

David Kelly

David Kelly

Zinzan Brooke and Jamie Heaslip share a penchant for drop-goals and a maverick strain courses through their DNA.

And the No 8, who backboned his side's sole World Cup success in 1987, believes that the Irish star has all the ingredients necessary to help Ireland become a serious threat to New Zealand's hopes of finally capturing their second world crown.

"I think Ireland has a great chance of certainly getting to the semi-final," said Brooke, in Dublin to launch Heineken's on-pack promotion offering fans the chance to win World Cup final tickets.

"Thereafter, it's up to them. The question for me is whether Ireland have three big games. You don't need seven big games. You can't do that. You need to win ugly sometimes. When games don't go your way, you still need to win them.

"They've got to beat Australia. If they do that, they'll be in a good position. And do I think they can beat Australia? Yes, I think they can."

Brooke is confident that Heaslip can provide the ballast from the back of the scrum to propel Ireland into the semis.

"I think he's a very good player. He's playing with confidence, he's a great option at line-out, he's a ball carrier who generally gets over the gain-line. He's a quality player. He just needs to tidy up at the base of the scrum.

"I get concerned about the amount of nines who tap the ball away from the No 8s. It's about making sure you have spatial awareness there, because it's a real attacking option."

However, Brooke, who played in three World Cups, readily concedes that his former team-mates are the side to beat, having ditched the disastrous rotation policy that ultimately undid Graham Henry's men in 2007.

"This Saturday against Australia, we've got the most experienced All Blacks team ever to take the field. That's a change from the mind-set in 2007. Graham Henry and the management realised they tripped themselves up then."

Irish Independent

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