FORMER Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip has backed his one-time team-mate Simon Easterby to follow in the footsteps of championship-winning forwards coach John Plumtree.
The popular South African Plumtree rocked the Irish camp when quitting his role this summer and Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was forced to undertake a desperate scramble for a suitable replacement just a year out from the World Cup.
However, Heaslip believes that Schmidt may have struck gold in the 65-times capped Easterby, who will switch his allegiance from his former side Scarlets as they prepare to visit the RDS to face Leinster this weekend. The careers of Leinster number eight Heaslip and blindside stalwart Easterby overlapped briefly, and disastrously, during Eddie O’Sullivan’s final Six Nations flop in 2008 but the pair tangled regularly at club level, before one-club Easterby began plotting as the Scarlets’ head coach.
“It’s probably a bit of a weird one for him more so than us,” says Heaslip as Scarlets, incredibly, begin their first campaign in 16 years without Easterby’s steady hand on the tiller in some shape or form.
“He knows us inside out at this stage,” adds Heaslip, before referencing the other Easterby, former Ireland scrum-half Guy, now Leinster manager.
“I guess we don’t have to worry about one of them giving away the inside track anymore!”
Simon Easterby’s devotion is 100pc to Ireland and Heaslip is convinced he can be as successful as his predecessor.
“The first encounter with Simon in the summer, he was quite methodical,” expanded Heaslip, who returns to captain the side on his seasonal bow tomorrow afternoon in the RDS.
“He is quite like Leo Cullen in a way. Very thought-out. He has set his stall out pretty clear so lads have a very good idea of what he wants,” he said. “Players need to have that certainty. I think he’ll be in his element, he’ll step into his own this season.”