Sunday 21 January 2018

Jamie Heaslip: There is nothing wrong with our lineout at all

Ireland star says video review was short and brief

Ireland's Jamie Heaslip during an open training session
Ireland's Jamie Heaslip during an open training session
David Kelly

David Kelly

What a difference a week makes.

Five days ago, Jamie Heaslip threatened to be consumed by a fit of giggles as he shared the story of how the team doctor had to help him into his boxer shorts shortly after Pascal Pape had shattered three vertebrae in his back.

"It was probably the most embarrassing moment of my professional career," he erupted.

He returns to our presence after a defeat to Wales when, metaphorically at least, he was one of a number of Irish players caught with their pants down.

Defeat caused not only the erasure of Grand Slam dreams but a harsh introspection which was brief and, presumably, ruthless.

He brushes over his personal contribution to the only Welsh try of the game. "They scored, that's the only thing that matters really.

"The video review was short and brief," he adds. "We looked at some systems errors and some missed opportunities and then very quickly we moved on to the opportunities that await us this weekend."

Whether those opportunities will be indulged by a return to the profitable kicking game or a concentrated focus on a more attacking gambit remains uncertain.

"We'll have to wait and see."

A more comprehensive lineout return, following its alarming dip from the usual high standards, would be helpful. Helpfully, Heaslip insists that the set-piece standards remain unaffected.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with the lineout at all. If you look at the overall stats from last year, we're in the same place we were. We didn't execute on certain things but I don't think there's a problem with the lineout."

His forwards coach is more phlegmatic when asked to swallow the difficulties from touch which clearly cost scoring opportunities.

"Yes, it was a disappointment," Simon Easterby concedes. "Sometimes you get a bit of error from what we did, when you're not quite as accurate as we would have liked. Wales defended a couple of lineouts particularly well also.

"You can't always account for how well they're going to defend those. We dropped our standards, no doubt.

"Certainly in the first half we didn't react particularly well on our own ball but also theirs; we gave them some serious momentum. We turned it around in the second half, we fixed a few things and were far more dominant.

"All the things we didn't get right are easily fixable and have been in the first couple of days this week.

"Scotland had a pretty effective lineout on the weekend, won all of theirs and stole of a few of England's. They're very tricky opposition. They are well drilled, well coached.

"I know Jonathan Humphreys who coaches their forwards from his days at the Ospreys and also obviously Vern Cotter coming in now has made a huge contribution to what they do up front, their forward play.

"They pose a huge threat right across their forward pack but they also have a back-line that can complement that forward play."

How Ireland respond to Scotland will be as important as how they respond from the Wales defeat. Not as much, perhaps, as how they respond to their own experience of losing their first game in 11.

It's an unusual position for this all-conquering side to be in and it remains to be seen how comfortable they can become this week in adapting to the foreign feeling.

"I can't tell you the game-plan," says Heaslip, veering away from his full-back's confident declarations of a different Ireland approach 24 hours before.

"We've seen some opportunities, and also some threats from them. They've a big mobile pack, especially the back five who are big units. And down the spine of the team they have a lot of the Glasgow players who are with each other all the time in the Pro12 and they have a great relationship with each other.

"We have to respect that threat. Their half-backs direct play well and the back five in the pack can mix up the work, a good ball-carrier and then off the ball guys who are abrasive in the ruck.

"I think we all know what losing a game is like. I know in terms of Ireland there was a good period of not losing a game.

"We're no strangers to it generally. It makes us more aware at this level of the margins for error. If you make mistakes or don't execute off your own plays, or don't make enough of them, you'll struggle to win the game."

While some in the camp are eager to submit Saturday's errors to the dustbin of history, others remain intent on fixing them.

The fundamental point is that Ireland need to respond.

"The eternal optimist takes from phrases like learning more from winning. Sometimes you can brush over things when you're winning - we don't do that - but sometimes it can happen," Heaslip adds.

"We looked at it quite analytically, in black and white, where we compounded errors through either a missed opportunity or else in giving them a penalty or line-break.

"So we have to realise that but we can't linger. We have to move on quickly and we always knew these two weeks were going to be like that.

"We did defensive stuff this morning and a lot of lads would have watched the game over the weekend. So they would have parked it and moved on."

It is up to them where they go next.

Irish Independent

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