Heaslip focus on Leinster return amid high hopes for new Irish era
JAMIE HEASLIP will make his return for Leinster against Cardiff Blues at the RDS on Friday night.
Heaslip let slip his selection yesterday when quipping that he's hoping not to suffer a coronary in the opening 20 minutes. This will be his first time back on a pitch since the second Lions Test against Australia in Melbourne on June 29.
The No 8 was, along with Brian O'Driscoll, controversially axed from the Lions squad for the final Test. He has been held in reserve because of his extended season but will feature for Leinster this weekend.
"That's what I'm focused on for now ... playing on Friday night and not having a heart-attack," he laughed when quizzed about expectations for Ireland's November internationals.
Ireland play Samoa, Australia and New Zealand – three teams above them in the IRB rankings – to kick off the Joe Schmidt era. Such is Schmidt's phenomenal record of success with Leinster that hopes are high of an Ireland renaissance.
"You can't control people's expectations," said Heaslip. "We all have standards we are trying to meet and all we can focus on are the things we can control ourselves like performance and preparation."
Heaslip was part of a four-man top table of Ireland players presented after a mini two-day camp at Ireland's Carton House base yesterday.
All four provinces were represented, with Munster's Paul O'Connell, Iain Henderson from Ulster and Connacht's Robbie Henshaw joining him.
For Henshaw the last two days have been "amazing" as he's been "swapping in and out" with O'Driscoll. He was a seven-year-old when O'Driscoll scored his hat-trick of tries against France in 2000.
He watched the game and vaguely remembers "being thrown in the air in celebration" after the win. "I've picked up what I can from Brian in training. It's been fantastic training with fellas who have been idols and role models," he said.
Henderson was equally enthusiastic at being included in the training camp, while O'Connell is clearly enthused at the prospect of representing Ireland next month after missing last season's Six Nations because of injury.
"The experience some of the younger guys got last season will stand to Ireland this year," said O'Connell. "A good few players were blooded during the competition and during the summer. That increases the competition for places, which is a positive."