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Heaslip Looking Forward To Leading Ireland Again

Heaslip Looking Forward To Leading Ireland Again

Jamie Heaslip will lead Ireland out against Samoa as he stands in for captain Paul O’Connell. Having served as captain since last November, Heaslip feels proud to be given the chance by Joe Schmidt this week in the absence of O’Connell who starts from the bench.

“Obviously, you would like to be captain all the time but Joe (Schmidt) made the decision he did. I’m really, really proud at being captain and really proud of when I was captain during the Six Nations. Really proud of the chance I’m getting this week to lead the team out,” insisted Jamie Heaslip, the 57-times capped back rower.

Heaslip cast aside questions of disappointment with Paul O’Connell’s selection as captain, stating that he was more worried about playing well for his province and country. His full focus, at present, is on helping Ireland through a successful GUINNESS Series.

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“There’s nothing I can really do about it. If he picks me as captain, he picks me. If not, I’ll take the chance of playing with Ireland.

“It is what it is and I’m very happy with where I am. Just as long as the team goes well, I’m a very happy man. I just like winning.

“To be honest, we’ve seven or eight players in the leadership group and in my experience of times gone by with successful teams, it’s not just any one player who is the leader.

“It’s the group, the core that’s really important in terms of showing how we do our business every day, how we go about things, being professional, how you represent yourself as a bloke.”

With the captaincy decision made, Heaslip and Schmidt’s efforts now turn to Samoa in Saturday’s GUINNESS Series opener, a game many expect Ireland to win.

The Samoans have beat Ireland once in five attempts, back in 1996 and Heaslip knows the level of expectation surrounding Schmidt’s first game in charge.

“Someone asked about Joe with expectations, and (it being) a double-edged sword. I was thinking that you’ve got to feel for him, you know?

“Obviously we had a lot of success in Leinster over the years and people expected that success to follow through to Ireland and it didn’t always happen every game, with the consistency we wanted.

“(Media) put a little bit more pressure on him as well. Joe loves a challenge and he’s stepping up. I think the players have really bought into how he does business here in terms of how he likes to train, how he likes to make sure everyone know exactly what their job is, what we’re doing, what he expects from players.”

Schmidt has brought in John Plumtree as forwards coach and although Ireland have yet to play a game under the new management, Heaslip believes that their preparations has paved the way for a successful November campaign with Australia and New Zealand also arriving on these shores in the coming weeks.

“The whole coaching staff are quite clear on that message to us and the players have really picked up on it. We’ve had a really, really good two weeks of training, as well as the mini camps through the summer, which added on to that.

“If we go out there and do the best job you can do, and the outcome doesn’t go our way, you can hold your hand up and say, ‘we played a really good game and were beaten by a better side’.

“Or you can go out and do your job. The point I’m trying to make is that we’re not focusing on the outcome, we’re focusing on what we’ve got to do, our jobs, our roles and execution on Saturday,” added the Naas man.