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Inspirational Heaslip puts himself in Lions frame

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Jamie Heaslip is tackled by Dimitri Yachvili and Yann Lesgourues at the RDS yesterday.

Jamie Heaslip is tackled by Dimitri Yachvili and Yann Lesgourues at the RDS yesterday.

Jamie Heaslip is tackled by Dimitri Yachvili and Yann Lesgourues at the RDS yesterday.

JAMIE HEASLIP gave the watching Lions coaches a timely reminder of his impressive capabilities with a two-try man-of-the-match outing on Saturday.

Head coach Warren Gatland dispatched Graham Rowntree and Rob Howley to Dublin to cast their eyes over a number of Lions contenders and Heaslip's (right) performance surely tipped the scales in his favour.

There are few No 8s in the game better than the Ireland captain and he was clearly back to his very best as he inspired Leinster into another European final.

He also matured into a genuinely inspiring leader during Ireland's turbulent Six Nations campaign and will surely invite discussion when Gatland and his lieutenants make their final deliberations ahead of tomorrow's announcement.

It is a certainty that Jonathan Sexton will travel to Australia as the Test out-half. Sexton contributed 17 of Leinster's 44-point total and he offered a performance of assurance that was all the more remarkable for coming in just his second start since sustaining that hamstring injury during Ireland's loss to England.

Brian O'Driscoll's try and the chants of "one more year" that rang out in the RDS emphasise just how rallying a figure he is. He will travel to Australia, as will Cian Healy, while Mike Ross is also a likely tourist.

The cases for Ian Madigan and Richardt Strauss are less clear.

None of Munster's Lions contenders put in performances to make them automatic selections for the touring party. Paul O'Connell came off second best to Nathan Hines in the first half especially.

There is no shame in that and it is inconceivable the Munster captain will not be included in Gatland's squad.

Whether he goes as captain is the question. O'Driscoll, O'Connell and Heaslip have all been suggested as candidates for the armband. Wales flanker Sam Warburton is the front runner, though.

Neither Simon Zebo nor Peter O'Mahony will be totally confident of selection following Saturday's game. They didn't play themselves out of contention either and it is probable both will travel.

Conor Murray and Donnacha Ryan will have their fingers crossed. Murray did well on Saturday but he will have been hoping to out-play Morgan Parra, as he did Danny Care in the Stoop. He will be hoping his continuing improvement, growing confidence and his dominance of Care will be considered.

Irish Independent