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Heaslip hopes to get career extension for his troubles

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Jamie Heaslip pictured at the launch of the new healthy drinks range CocoFuzion100. Photo: Sportsfile

Jamie Heaslip pictured at the launch of the new healthy drinks range CocoFuzion100. Photo: Sportsfile

Jamie Heaslip pictured at the launch of the new healthy drinks range CocoFuzion100. Photo: Sportsfile

The motivation to be the very best has resided within Jamie Heaslip from the very beginning; second nature.

Maybe because he is 34 this December, it is often easy to forget that the two-time Lion stayed in Trinity and played as an amateur before taking the professional plunge.

Work hard. Play harder. Play hard. Work harder. When you're on, be on. When you're off, be off. Routine has always served as a comforting cocoon.

Little wonder, then, that when the body that is his business and his livelihood threatened to break down on him, he returned to routine's empathetic embrace.

Without surgery on his complicated, convoluted back issue, the risk was that he would never play again.

Mental

"My engineering brain kicked in," says the Mechanical Engineering graduate, midway through a hopefully six-month recuperation process, at the launch of the new healthy drinks range, CocoFuzion100.

"Okay, what are the steps, bang, bang, bang, bang. Oh, I actually can plan my holidays, what will I do for my holidays. Oh, I have weekends off, that's kind of good.

"I go mental when I don't have any structure. It's silver lining stuff.

"I've never had a break this long in sport, it's the first time in 12 years I haven't gone on tour. All going well, I hope it's the last significant break before the World Cup.

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"In a weird way, when I was stuck, I was looking at people like Richie McCaw who took a break from the game and Dan Carter as well. You start putting a positive spin on it."

Except this was neither a planned sabbatical nor the most propitious time to schedule one.

You would think the experience of two Lions tours - starting every Test except the last one -might have made it easier to contemplate skipping this year's, but it offered a sanguine prism through which to reflect his predicament.

"I had to get over that," he says with a sharp intake of breath. "When you're delivered the news that you're not going anywhere in a couple of months' time, you're trying to convince yourself.

"'I think I can, it's worth the risk to come back early.' And the doc was just like, 'No, it's not happening.'

"They removed the emotional part of it. That was fine. Still, when Gatty (Warren Gatland) announced the squad, I still had in the back of my mind that maybe... just maybe…"

He couldn't afford a maybe. The surgeons sharpened their words as readily as their scalpels.

"He said I had a very good chance of making a very good recovery but if we didn't have the operation, the likelihood of doing some long-term damage that would impact playing drastically increased, because I was in a bad spot as it was.

"It was pretty much, 'Do you want to play or don't you?' That's how I saw it. So yeah, no problem, let's go.

"We could have passed the point already of doing permanent damage but I'm progressing well."

Now, he could make up more time than he expected at the other end of his career.

"That's part of the silver lining, you're giving your body a break from collisions for six months and you can get a really good strength and conditioning block in there and all this sort of stuff.

"I haven't ever had that. Literally every year for the past 12 years has been an 11- or 12-month season with four weeks off.

"So fingers crossed it gives me a nice kick on the other end, and if anything, look, it will set me up for August."


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