Jamie Heaslip insists that the Lions will not be a factor when Ireland take on Wales at Lansdowne Road tomorrow.
The Ireland vice-captain was, along with Brian O’Driscoll, dropped by Warren Gatland for the final Test against Australia last July and the Six Nations showdown is the first time the New Zealander will coach against the players he took on tour.
The round two clash has long been highlighted as the key game in Ireland’s campaign and the No8 knows all of the Welsh players well, having toured with so many of them last summer and played against them at club and international level over the past number of years.
And he says he is fully focused on this weekend and will not be affected by any hang-ups over the summer.
“Absolutely none,” he said when asked if the Lions would have an impact.
“We’re under no illusions about what we’re going up against. They’ve won two Championships in a row, we know them well from club level and international.
“I’ve played with all of them at this stage I think, they’re good players, good blokes. I expect a tough battle in that regard, I’m not going to give any secrets away, it will definitely be physical and the way they play you have to be physical to negate that.”
Heaslip says confidence is high after last week’s win over Scotland.
“We have utter belief in ourselves," he said. "We have to be accurate, you have to be at your best or if you come up against a team like Wales they’ll punish you with Leigh Halfpenny so accurate. I’m the eternal optimist, I always think we’re in good shape.”
Asked whether the fact that so many of the Irish team had played under Gatland over the summer is an advantage, Heaslip said: “Probably, but I’m sure Gats hasn’t shown his full hand tour in camp.
“They have played enough against Joe (Schmidt) through the clubs to get a taste of what he must be like.
“They’re not playing against Joe, they’re playing against the fifteen. I’d take it with a pinch of salt, but it could be an advantage.”