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Heaslip: Back Row Gelled Well

Heaslip: Back Row Gelled Well

Jamie Heaslip crowned his seventh successive start for Ireland with his first Test try, helping Declan Kidney’s men to a comprehensive victory over Canada. Linking with Stephen Ferris and Shane Jennings in a new-look back row, Heaslip was pleased with how the trio combined.

“We said at the very start, just make sure we share the workload and make sure one of us in always at the breakdown or near the breakdown. I think we did that well,” Jamie Heaslip said post-match, commenting on the new back row combination’s approach to the first international of the season.

“I’m very used to playing with Jenno (Shane Jennings) and I’ve played with Fez (Stephen Ferris) a couple of times.

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“We didn’t have a problem at all. I think we got round the pitch very well.

“The two boys did a great job, especially off the side of the scrum and in defence and attack.”

Whether this back row, with just 21 caps between them, retains their places for next Saturday’s crucial clash with New Zealand remains to be seen.

Both David Wallace and Alan Quinlan made their presence felt by scoring tries off the bench against Canada, adding to the already intense competition for places at the tail end of Ireland’s scrum. 

The set piece was a real area of strength for the Irish against Canada, providing the platform for Heaslip to strike for his 28th minute try.

The Naas clubman scored twice for Ireland against the Barbarians in a summer tour warm-up match in May, but this Thomond Park effort was his first try in the Test arena.

He charged forward off the back of a scrum and shipped a couple of tackles before squirming over to the right of the Canadian posts.

“I hadn’t scored in a good while for Leinster or indeed Ireland, so it’s good to get one this season. I’m happy enough with that.

“I didn’t know if I got over the line. I knew I didn’t knock it on – if anything, it went backwards.

“But I wasn’t sure if I got over the line. The ref said I did so I’ll take it.

“We showed good strength at the scrum. Took the space really and took it to them.

“The front five did a great job in keeping the pressure on, getting that right side up. It just came out nicely for me and I got a good run at it.”

Heaslip gave credit to a Canadian team who never let their heads drop despite a frustrating night of dropped balls, misplaced passes and poor defending.

“I thought the Canada boys played well. They were unlucky, probably the conditions didn’t help them with a lot of slippy ball failing to the ground and stuff like that.

“They did well but we played very well, I thought. We were very efficient with the ball at times.

“Maybe the start of the second half, we were guilty of playing a little bit too much in our own half.

“But we got round that and when the replacements came on, we kicked up another gear and got a couple more tries.”

Heaslip insisted that Ireland were never going to take Canada lightly, especially with IRB World Ranking points on the line.

“Deccie kinda put it in perspective. I think Canada are seven or eight spots behind us in the rankings and we’re the same behind New Zealand,” the 24-year-old said.

“You know if you write them off against us, then surely you can write us off against New Zealand. We don’t feel we’re a write off against them and it kinda works for Canada as well.

“We came into this game knowing Canada are a good side. We all did our research, our video on them like we do for every game.

“It just paid off for us. Things just our way, we got a couple of lucky bounces but I think we’re happy with our performance.”

Next-up for Kidney’s charges is the much-anticipated visit of New Zealand to Croke Park.

Heaslip started against New Zealand in June when Ireland fell to a 21-11 defeat in a wet Wellington.

Asked whether he views facing All Blacks as ‘the ultimate challenge in Test rugby’, he said: “Well, they’re top of the world rankings right now, so they’re the best team right now in world rugby.

“They’re the best so you want to be able to play against them, see how you measure up and if you’re up to that kind of standard and quality.

“First of all though, you have to get on the pitch which ain’t easy right now, especially in the back row!

“We’re all holding our breath until Tuesday when the team is announced.”