Tuesday 24 October 2017

Jamie Heaslip hoping to avoid repeat of final warm-up game frustration

Ireland's Jamie Heaslip
Ireland's Jamie Heaslip
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The World Cup is looming large on the horizon but Jamie Heaslip's focused mindset is such that he isn't looking beyond England this weekend.

It's a train of thought that has been a constant feature of Joe Schmidt's players since he arrived in this country five years ago and although Heaslip may be reluctant to look too far ahead, he isn't afraid to look back.

One particular unfortunate incident stands out for him. Rewind four years ago when Ireland took on England in what was their final hit-out before heading to the World Cup.

Having suffered concussion, Heaslip was replaced 13 minutes after David Wallace was stretchered off with a knee injury that not only shattered his World Cup dreams but also ended his playing days in a green jersey.

"I distinctly remember playing England in our last warm-up game for the last World Cup, despite me getting concussed," Heaslip (right) recalled.

"I was coming through in the medical room and seeing Wally across from me with his family around him and in a bit of pain, I realised how quickly it can all end. It's about enjoying it while we're getting on with it."

It was an unsavoury reminder about how fickle a player's rugby career can be and it has made Heaslip savour every moment he steps onto the field.

Joe Schmidt spoke yesterday about the difficulty in trying to get his players to peak at the right time but for Heaslip, he knows his own body well enough at this stage of his career to realise that he is primed for the next two months.

"Different lads, I suppose, react to training, fitness and matches differently," he explained.

"For me, two good hit-outs in games, I'm good to go. The fitness and all that is great. But, two games is perfect.

"We're paid to play and not to train so I'm looking forward to getting out there and playing some games now.

"There was a bit of a gap between that first Wales game and last week. Now I feel this will be a great chance for me to blow off those last cobwebs, add to my match fitness and get going.

"Joe said the other day that we had been doing pre-season for two months and I just thought, 'Where did that two months go?' It's just flown past and I'm sure the next two weeks will creep up on us."

Heaslip will join Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien in what is likely to be the first-choice back-row at the World Cup and after last week's troubles at the breakdown, England will provide another stern but welcome test.

"This is the last chance we get to be up to game speed because after that we're into the competition and you have no excuses," Heaslip stressed.

"England are a quality side. You saw how much they pushed it in the Six Nations and what they've accomplished over the last couple of years. The players they have are going well at club level and that's feeding in.

"They're a great side to be going up against before going into the World Cup."

Irish Independent

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