Heaslip happy either way

Jamie Heaslip says he is enjoying playing a prominent part in the British & Irish Lions' expansive style of play but is more than happy to roll up his sleeves and do the tough stuff this Tuesday. [more]

Heaslip happy either way

Jamie Heaslip says he is enjoying playing a prominent part in the British & Irish Lions’ expansive style of play but is more than happy to roll up his sleeves and do the tough stuff this Tuesday.

Heaslip starts at No8 when The Lions face a Combined New South Wales Queensland Country outfit in Newcastle in game four of their 10-match tour, with the start of the Test series against the Qantas Wallabies now just 12 days away.

The Lions scored 17 tries in their first two games before the rain-drenched victory over the Reds in Brisbane and the Australian public have expressed their surprise at the free-flowing nature of the tourists’ attacking approach.

Heaslip shone in one such showing against the Force in Perth, regularly linking forwards and backs and touching down in the far corner during the 69-17 success.

The Ireland captain admits he would relish the chance for more of the same against the Combined Country XV but he isn’t expecting just to be able to roam free in the loose.

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“It’s a really interesting and simple shape that we’re playing,” said Heaslip.

“The back row have a pretty prominent role to play in it and it’s great to get your hands on the ball.

“Sometimes you get games where it opens up and you get to spread your legs and sometimes you don’t and you’ve just got to grind it out, just like against the Reds at the weekend.

“You just take what comes your way and take your opportunities but, most importantly, you just make sure you prepare for what’s coming and you put in a lot of work. With all the travel that we’re doing, there’s a lot of off-field work that we’ve got to get done.”

Heaslip was one of the young guns when he made his first Lions tour in 2009 but is now one of the old heads.

Only Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell have played more games in Lions colours among the class of 2013, while his six back-row colleagues are all younger and less experienced than the 29-year-old.

Having had the likes of David Wallace, Martyn Williams and Joe Worsley to look up to four seasons ago, Heaslip is now playing and training alongside 22-year-old Toby Faletau, 23-year-old Justin Tipuric and 24-year-old Sam Warburton, with Tom Croft the nearest in age to the Leinster star at 27.

Heaslip admits it’s a slightly different dynamic this time around but he certainly doesn’t see himself as a veteran, even if he is happy to pass on his advice about team spirit following a happy tour in 2009.

“You still have a lot of experience of guys in the back row winning a lot of different things. We have Grand Slam winners, Six Nations winners, Heineken Cup, Rabo league, we’ve got a real mix in there,” added Heaslip.

“I suppose it is a little bit different with the age profile. I’m four years wiser, I would say, a little bit more experienced and a little more street smart.

“The thing I try and bring from last time is the experience that I had, in making sure you blend and don’t stay in your comfortable little clique of the guys you knock around with with your country or your club.

“We’ve had a hard time with the Leicester boys! It’s a constant battle. Trying to pull Crofty (Tom Croft) out of his little group is hard work!

“I’m having a great time. It’s a lot of fun. I’m rooming with the youngest guy in the squad (Stuart Hogg) this time around so he’s keeping me young!”

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