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Heaslip Relishing RDS Showdown With Ulster

Heaslip Relishing RDS Showdown With Ulster

As the Leinster squad prepare to to face Ulster in Friday’s GUINNESS PRO12 semi-final at the RDS, Jamie Heaslip has spoken about the potency of the northern province’s attack and the importance of Leinster backing their defensive systems.

The last time the two sides met Ulster were 30-6 winners at Kingspan Stadium, with a penalty try in the 18th minute setting them on their way. 

The following week, when Leinster defeated Benetton Treviso to secure top spot in the GUINNESS PRO12 table, Ulster put 46 points on the Ospreys in Swansea to make sure of their place in the top four. That capped a sequence of four wins in a row for Ulster that saw them score 141 points.

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And it is that strength in Ulster’s attack that Jamie Heaslip was first asked about by the media in UCD ahead of Friday’s mouth-watering semi-final meeting.

“We’re going up against a side that are the third highest try scorers in the competition, so they know how to put a few away,” insisted the Ireland international.

“They’ve got a back-line that’s playing some really good rugby right now – they’ve got some good finishers. They’re going to be a tough side to contain, but we’ll back our systems, back our ‘D’. When it comes to this end of the competition, I’ve been lucky to have a bit of experience in it, it’s usually defence that wins championships.”

That defeat at the end of April at Kingspan Stadium is something that, Heaslip said, weighed heavily on him and the squad. Losing to your provincial rivals in a big derby game is never nice.

“When you live it the way we live it, you have to wear your heart on your sleeve, on your jersey. It’s not just you you’re representing, it’s your family, your friends. It’s the 19,000 people who are coming out this weekend, the hundreds of thousands more who aren’t, that are watching it on TV, in the pubs. So you’ve got to wear it.

“That weighs heavy on you when you feel like – not for the lack of effort, I don’t think there’s ever a question of a lack of effort, but just a lack of execution – because you take such pride in it you can feel a little deflated after a game like the last time we played Ulster.

“The great thing about sport is, more often than not, there’s always another opportunity, another crack at it. We’ve got an opportunity to wear that jersey with pride in front of a sold-out crowd on Friday.”

Looking ahead to the semi-final itself, Heaslip believes that accuracy will be key, adding: “It’s the team that makes the least amount of mistakes. It’s the team that takes the opportunities. We’ll pay them the respect that they deserve. They’ve got the second best defence in the competition, they’ve got the third highest try-scoring ability; that’s two pretty potent stats to have.

“They earn a lot of respect, they deserve a lot of respect. We’ll pay them that, but at the end of the day we have to focus on ourselves a little bit and focus on what we’ve got to do, focus on our job and our task. We’ll see what the outcome is at the end of that.

“I’ve lost track of the amount of games I’ve played – I’ve won some and I’ve lost some. The trick is always get back up on that horse and go again. If you linger on anything too long it’s not helping you, it’s not good for you and you’re always looking over your shoulder.

“In rugby games you don’t want to be looking over your shoulder at challenges coming straight on. We’re firmly focused on what’s in front of us.”