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Dublin: 6 °C Saturday 23 August, 2014

‘I still outrank you, son’: Heaslip born for leadership role

The new Ireland captain has been groomed for a job like this for longer than he could hold an oval ball.

Jamie Heaslip at the launch of GUINNESS' Made of More RBS 6 Nations campaign at Twickenham Stadium.
Jamie Heaslip at the launch of GUINNESS' Made of More RBS 6 Nations campaign at Twickenham Stadium.

“IT WASN’T A whole lot different.”

Jamie Heaslip isn’t usually one to embellish a story and the tale of his stepping up to the role of Ireland captain in November fits the mould.

“You have to give a little speech at the after-match function, which is kind of funny.

“I somehow always seem to curse. You know when you tell yourself not to curse, and straight away you say ‘shit’? “

His outward persona of a laid back man-about-town in his 20s seems to divide opinion among rugby supporters. Behind closed doors, though, the view is unequivocal; and there is no work ethic in the Leinster or Ireland dressing room to surpass the number eight.

So, aside from the occasional expletive on the mic, there should be no reason to doubt his ability to lead Ireland.

“I am very much a lead by example type of guy. Talking isn’t too much (help), you are better off doing.” Heaslip, a Guinness brand ambassador, said in a Twickenham function room last week.

Pulling rank

Heaslip’s father, Richard, is the voice Leinster’s back row could hear recently, each time he turned a page of Matthew Syed’s book Bounce; which argues that talent does not come naturally, but is nurtured through 10,000 hours of practice.

And it was Colonel Heaslip (once a brigadier general at NATO) who instilled the reap-what-you-sow mantra in the three-time Heineken Cup winner.

The boy is raised now and the elder Heaslip’s work is largely done. He needs no reminder to keep his criticism and advice in check since his son rose to the top rank of his profession in November.

He did, however, grip Jamie’s handshake a little tighter to remind him that his stance on insubordination would remain firm.

“Obviously, he gave me the one of; ‘I’m a colonel. So I still pull rank on ya.’” Heaslip said with a wide grin.

Captain Heaslip is already part of rugby folklore thanks to that 2009 try against France at Croke Park, but Colonel Heaslip is part of history – one of 26 Irish army cadets asked to fire in salute as John F Kennedy was lowered to his grave in 1963.

“Yeah, the picture’s up in the house at home.” Heaslip says with an enthusiastic response before countering that it’s “not really” a subject that is much-discussed.

“My dad usually wants to talk rugby and it’s the last thing I want to talk about. So I keep the business pretty short and sweet. I have to be prepared going down home. It’s like ‘right, give Dad five minutes here and let him talk rugby.’ Put up with it for five minutes, you know.

“I never really ask him about work – he’s seen and done some crazy things being involved the Army and the Ranger wing and all these different things.”

He adds: “I learned a lot from my dad in how to lead guys and how to set an example, I suppose.

“My dad’s quite the moral compass at times: he’s a pioneer, quite a religious man. His moral compass is pretty straight. He’s a good sounding-board; he would know how to deal with a diverse array of characters – like you do on a rugby team, I suppose.

“It’s like anywhere. It’s not everyone who is going to naturally get on with everyone, but everyone has to get along.”

Sin bin

As is the case within any family dynamic there are still moments of tension. Yet when Heaslip thinks back to the moment which regrettably defined his first outing as an international captain, the (likely unavoidable) yellow card after half time against South Africa, he remembers his father’s reaction as being not a whole lot different to how he may treat any other honest mistake.

“He knows not to.” The younger Heaslip jokes while tearing the last edible flesh off an apple and binning it in a nearby paper cup.

“He knows I’d be disappointed. If I was going around bragging about it he’d probably clip me around the head, to be honest. Even at 60-odd he still fancies his chances.

“He never really says (much critical), he knows when I’m disappointed.

“He knows his son.”

Heaslip: O’Driscoll 100% behind my captaincy

For more information on how you can win flights to Rome as part of a VIP prize to see the Ireland play Italy visit facebook.com/GuinnessIreland. Guinness is the official beer partner to the RBS 6 Nations.

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