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Heaslip Eager To Take On England

Heaslip Eager To Take On England

Just at the right time, Jamie Heaslip’s season has exploded into life. His big plays in both the French and Italian games – witness his side-stepping try and crucial late penalty award against les Bleus and then his 50-yard burst to set up David Wallace’s try against the Azzurri – have marked him out as one of the players of the 2009 RBS 6 Nations so far.

Playing against number 8s of the quality of France’s Imanol Harinordoquy and Italian captain Sergio Parisse, Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip has certainly raised his game in the last fortnight.

In such a competitive area as the back row, Heaslip has done extremely well to feature in all 12 of Ireland’s most recent Test matches stretching back to his appearance as a replacement against Italy in the 2008 RBS 6 Nations.

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The next target for the Naas native, who is keeping Heineken Cup winner Denis Leamy out of the Irish side, is to retain the number 8 jersey for Saturday week’s clash with England.

Having not been involved for the historic Croke Park clash in 2007 and lost badly at Twickenham last year, Heaslip is determined to maintain Ireland’s current winning streak.

“It wasn’t nice last year. Losing never is, and especially against England. I’d love the chance to play next week,” he said.

“I think a lot of people have written them off this year and it’s unfair. Wales took one chance that turned their game in Cardiff.

“It was a turnover ball and anything can happen with those, so we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

Heaslip, who seems to thrive on the sheer physicality of the modern game, is expecting next week’s return to Croker Park to be a bruising affair considering the type of rugby England play.

He added: “England’s backs are very attack-orientated. With England you’re always going to get a pack that is mobile, big and strong. That’s just the way they are.

“They have good quality backs to pick from. They’re going to be a tough side no matter what.

“They were unlucky in the last game and people have been giving out about the way they won the first game (against Italy).

“But they took their chances when they came. You can’t open up Italy that often because they don’t give you a lot of space to play.

“I think the England match is definitely going to be another war of attrition.

“There are going to be a lot of bangs. You see that in a lot of the Heineken Cup games when the Irish provinces play the English teams, they carry hard and hit hard.

“The way to counter that is that you do the same thing back and just don’t give up. Don’t relent. Keep doing it for the full 80.

“And when the chances do come about, take them. But you’re not going to be able to take them if you’re not running hard.”

Ireland have only conceded two tries in their last three Test matches, during which they scored nine themselves.

Maintaining these high standards of defence and attack will be key as to whether Ireland can keep on the road to Six Nations and Grand Slam glory.

Giving his opinion on Ireland’s defensive strength, Heaslip said: “Guys are working on their tackle technique regularly so that’s improving. The hits are getting better, more accurate.

“Guys are always getting that bit bigger and stronger. There are big boys on the pitch who can move and who can hit.

“So it’s just gonna happen. I think it’s just the way the game is going. Every team now has a defensive coach for example.”

Ireland played expansively against France, stunning the visitors with three high-quality tries, and they also wore Italy down with an open-style gameplan. Heaslip is a fan of Ireland’s current tactics under Declan Kidney.

“I like the game the way we’re playing. We’re throwing it about a bit when we have to but we’re also playing tight when we know we have to.

“At the start of the game last weekend we probably played too loose, but after 10 minutes we tightened it up.

“Italy weren’t giving us any space. They just kept coming up really hard.

“We tightened up and brought them through the phases and then we got our chances and took them. That’s the way the whole game went until about 15 minutes to go until Brian (O’Driscoll) and Luke (Fitzgerald) got their tries.

“The end scoreline probably didn’t reflect the way the game went but we’ll still take the tries.”