Tuesday 26 March 2019

Jamie Heaslip on who would win between the '09 and 2018 Grand Slam teams and why he predicts a player exodus

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Jamie Heaslip has nailed his colours to the mast and believes the 2009 Grand Slam team he featured in would get the better of Joe Schmidt's 2018 champions.

The former Leinster and Ireland number 8, who was forced into retirement earlier this month with a back injury, made the verdict on the Rugby Union Weekly podcast on BBC Five Live.

"It's a different game from '09 to 2018 in terms of how they ref the game, the players. For sport, my gut says '09," he said.

"I said it to a couple of people, I think the 2018 squad is a much better squad and I think they are in a really strong position going forward because to win competitions, to win the World Cup let's not beat around the bush, you need a strong squad because with injuries and rotation, you need 31 players that can start no matter what.

"They are in the best position they have ever been squad-wise. I just think there were more individual stand-out players in the '09 team, that where my gut kinda goes on."

Heaslip revealed that the victory in Twickenham was the first time he had gone to see Ireland play since the victory over England at the Aviva 12 months ago and admitted that it was a 'bittersweet' experience.

Among the players to miss out on Grand Slam glory was Simon Zebo, who was overlooked because he will leave Munster at the end of the season for Racing 92.

Asked about Zebo's absence, the Kildare man said he believes that 'one club players' would become increasingly rare and expects the number of Irish players heading abroad to ply their trade will rise.

"It's a weird one, you don't see Irish players leave their club that much and I actually think you are going to see more of it in the coming years," he added.

"You are going to see guys get 20-30 caps maybe or just starting there or thereabouts for their club and bouncing out of there to go to France or to go to England to travel, to experience new things, let's be honest the market over there is probably more financially rewarding than it can be here but I just don't think you're going to see as many guys in England, Ireland and France play with just the one club.

"Zeebs has a young family, he's got to think ahead as well, you would never blame the guy for going but it must have been tough for him but the thing is, he's going to France, he's a two-hour flight away, he's not halfway across the world.

"The IRFU don't have any (official) policy in place so he can still get picked. Johnny was picked when he was abroad. Donnacha Ryan is over there right now playing with Racing and I think Zeebs is a gifted and talented player.

"I'd say he found it tough but knowing him as well, he's a free spirit and I'd say, like me, he would have liked to have been there but was happy for the guys who were there."

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