'I’d put him up there with Joe Schmidt' - Jamie Heaslip pinpoints what Stuart Lancaster has brought to Leinster
Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster has come in for big praise from Jamie Heaslip, who claims the ex-England boss is on a par with Ireland coach Joe Schmidt.
The former Leinster and Ireland number eight made the comparison during his guest appearance on the Rugby Union Weekly podcast on BBC Five Live.
"I don’t know why he gets the criticism in the UK that he gets but he is absolutely loved and adored by everyone at Leinster," Heaslip said.
"I’d put him up there with Joe Schmidt in terms of best coaches I’ve ever worked for."
Heaslip told hosts Chris Jones and Ugo Monye that Lancaster helped him take the shackles off and that Leinster’s current forward line are benefiting from the same freedom.
"He was giving me the opportunity to be a lot more free and I think you saw that in that first season of Stuart being involved with us in terms of the freedom I had in the games," he said.
"And I think that’s what he’s given to a lot of the back rows and to a lot of the players."
The former back-row forward, whose injury problems forced him into retirement last month, spoke of his regret about not getting to play more matches under the Leinster coach.
"I said to him when I was finishing that I was gutted that I didn’t get to spend more time with him because he was playing the style of rugby that I really love," Heaslip said.
"His theory of playing rugby, of being comfortable in chaos, structuring that in training and making you think your way through the game is really benefiting Leinster."
Heaslip was talking ahead of his old team’s Champions Cup quarter-final clash with Saracens at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday and is excited by the prospect of Lancaster coming up against another of his former coaches, Mark McCall.
"I had Mark McCall as my U20 coach," he said.
"It’s gonna be one hell of a game between two sides with really good attacking prowess but also some really good defensive systems in place that really starve teams of opportunities to play."