Sunday 18 August 2019

'They were the main winners' - Jamie Heaslip picks out four players who caught his eye in World Cup warm-up

Jamie Heaslip was impressed with Tadhg Beirne (left) and Andrew Conway (right) against Italy. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Jamie Heaslip was impressed with Tadhg Beirne (left) and Andrew Conway (right) against Italy. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Having been left out of the 2007 World Cup squad and played in two others, former Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip has plenty of empathy for John Cooney, Finlay Bealham and Mike Haley.

However, he understands the harsh realities of professional sport and the position Schmidt is in as he makes his big selection calls.

The coach has taken a 40-man squad to Portugal for a warm-weather training camp this week ahead of the second warm-up game against England on Saturday week.

Joey Carbery was on board the plane and Heaslip is fully confident he’ll be fine to play a role in Japan despite his ankle injury.

"I suppose selection has always been a mad one, hasn't it, certainly when it comes to a World Cup squad,” Heaslip said at an event to promote Guinness today.

"You know that bar injury, they're out now, in that very early stage.

"And having been on both sides of that now myself, it's not easy, no words of condolence will help the lads, they'll be pissed off regardless.

"The guys in the squad will be breathing a sigh of relief in the meantime, but yeah, it's tough. There's a lot of competition in back three, props, scrum-halves...there's a lot of competition there, and there's only going to be more calls down the line.

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"People are going to be saying, 'He's hard done by' or whatever, I think that's just going to be a constant theme but that's a good thing for us when you think about it.

"In my head I'd say they've got, what, 25 guys on the plane, leaving six spots up for grabs. But then out of that 25, I'd say there's a bit of squeaky bum time for them as well in terms of getting on that flight."

Heaslip worked as a co-commentator at Saturday's opening warm-up win over Italy and said four players caught his eye in particular.

"Watching the game at the weekend, I think the guys who stood out for me were (Andrew) Conway, (Chris) Farrell and Tadhg Beirne, and then Joey Carbery was going really well, obviously he was a bit banged up but I think he's in with a good shout of going.

"So if you look at the timeline, the first game is the third week in September, and then also you play Scotland, Japan, Russia and Samoa, you've got four weeks to play and he's not going to play the same 10 for those, and for all the warm-up games.

"So there's plenty of time for him.

"Yeah, they were the main winners and then, I think, everyone else was probably just struggling with the general pace of the first game of the season, which is never pretty in the best cases. And then when it's an international, it's hard to hit the ground running.

"But it's hard on guys, because they have to make an impression early-doors. That's the toughest thing.”

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