Tuesday 24 October 2017

Heenan declares his wish tofollow McCaw route to top

Jake Heenan is hoping to build on the tricks he has learned from watching videos of Richie McCaw
Jake Heenan is hoping to build on the tricks he has learned from watching videos of Richie McCaw

Declan Rooney

New Connacht flanker Jake Heenan is not shy about setting high targets for himself – he wants to follow in the footsteps of his hero Richie McCaw and become one of the greatest rugby players in the world.

The former New Zealand U-20 captain joined Connacht during the summer and, with Willie Faloon set to miss most of the season with a broken foot, the door has opened for Heenan.

And, after trawling through videos of the All-Black skipper, the 21-year old (pictured right) is ready to build on the tricks he has learned from McCaw to help Pat Lam's side.

"He was my hero, more so in the last few years. I only started playing No 7 when I was 18.

"I did a lot of work, watching his game and I think his physical nature is similar to mine rather than someone like David Pocock or George Smith.

"He is obviously an excellent player and I try to model myself on him. He is a head player as well which is vital for a seven – being able to play smart rugby is vital.

"Yeah I have a chance here now, but is a real shame for Willie, I've really enjoyed working with him. He's a great guy and a brilliant player. But that's the nature of contact sport," said Heenan, who worked under Lam in the Blues Secondary Schools programme and at the Auckland Rugby academy.

Despite his move to the Northern Hemisphere, Heehan has not closed the door on winning a full All-Black cap in the future like his idol McCaw.

If he is resident in Ireland for the next three years he will be eligible to play for Joe Schmidt's side, but he has not given up hope of a return ticket home just yet.

"It's always an option. It's nothing I've given too much thought to, though. Right now this is the campaign I am in and I want to do the best I can here.

"I aspire to be one of the great rugby players of the world. If that's in a green jersey for Ireland, or if that's in a black jersey for New Zealand, then so be it.

"I haven't got one clear path. I want to develop and get better and this here is my best opportunity right now. Whatever comes from it come from it.

"I'm not looking at how many games I can start this year or how big an influence I can have on the Irish coaches or anything like that. All I am looking at right now is Ospreys on Saturday and everything else is fairly irrelevant," he said.

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