Tuesday 23 January 2018

Let’s go out with all guns blazing-Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip
Jamie Heaslip

Wyn Griffiths and Conor George

LET'S finish this campaign as we started. That's the impassioned plea from Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip as his team today try to secure third place in the Six Nations in Rome.

Heaslip has urged Ireland to finish the tournament in the same way it began in Cardiff – with a flurry of tries – and win against an Italian team desperate to end their run of Six Nations losses against the visitors.

"I would love it if we came out this weekend with all guns blazing," said Heaslip.

Meanwhile, the tributes continue to flow for Brian O'Driscoll as the question mark still hovers over his future.

Italy captain Sergio Parisse has praised the former Ireland captain as one of the greatest centres in history.

O'Driscoll will be playing his 60th and potentially final match of the championship, with his future beyond his likely presence on the Lions' summer tour to Australia yet to be decided.

The 34-year-old passed concussion protocols to take his place in Ireland's team.

"When you talk about Ireland and rugby, you can't not talk about Brian O'Driscoll," Parisse said. "He's one of the best centres in the history of the game. This will be his final match in Rome and he will want to finish with a win.

"I wish him luck in the rest of his life, but he has done many things for Ireland and rugby. When I think about a centre, I think about Brian O'Driscoll over all the rest."

And Ireland's assistant coach Anthony Foley also advised players and fans to "cherish" O'Driscoll's genius.

Whether or not this is O'Driscoll's final game in an Ireland shirt is almost immaterial – when he does finally retire he will be hugely missed, something Foley highlighted at yesterday's final training run before today's game.

"Brian's a privilege to have in your squad," said Foley. "And I don't think you should ever take for granted when you have someone like Brian.

"You must cherish them when you have them because you'll be a long time missing them." Foley went on to offer O'Driscoll glowing praise as he reflected on the career path of a player recognised as Ireland's greatest ever.

"I saw Brian at the early part of his career and saw him grow from the prodigious talent he was at that stage to the legend he is now. I'm fortunate to have been around to see it," added Foley.

O'Driscoll's expected retirement is not something the squad have discussed, according to Cian Healy, who said that that possibility is not something they will need to eke any further motivation for today's game.

"The attitude with these games is that you play it like it's your last every time," said Healy. "That's the attitude we have every weekend." Foley also had some potential words of comfort for Leinster fans when he predicted an earlier than anticipated return to action for Jonathan Sexton from the torn tendon he suffered in training prior to the team's departure for Rome.

"He was hugely professional in his approach to the hamstring injury so with Jonny I wouldn't be surprised if you were looking at a two to four-week recovery for him," Foley added.

Irish Independent

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