IRELAND CAPTAIN JAMIE HEASLIP produced one of his finest displays in the green jersey in the absence of Paul O’Connell. The Munster lock was ruled out of Ireland’s 28-6 win over Scotland but Heaslip excelled in the back row, scored a try and lead with an attacking zeal.
“Obviously delighted to get off to a winning start,” Heaslip told RTÉ. ”A lot of hard work has gone into the last two weeks and the previous months, especially at Christmas time. We learned a lot in the November Series and we kicked on. The support was tremendous in November and if we can get this place a little like a fortress, with that kind of support, we’re going places.”
The captain added, “It was tough when we learned the news this morning [that] we were losing Paulie, who is an unbelievable leader and teammate, and a serious player. He gave us some really great words during the week and we kicked on from there. There’s some great leaders in the team — we’ve got seven or eight good leaders — and we all focused in on our job, played with a bit of passion and came out on top.”
After being denied a try by the video referee in the first half, Heaslip was not in the mood to allow teammate Rory Best to claim Ireland’s second score. “No, no, I’m claiming that one. Rory tried to do his best. he just gave me a rocket up the ass to get over the line.”
Heaslip said it may be a cliché but Ireland are taking the Six Nations n a game-by-game basis and Wales are next up. “I’m sure Joe will have some choice words inside, and tomorrow evening when he reviews the game, but we are going to get our recovery [in]. It’s a quick turnaround and a big challenge next week.
The Irish coach admitted his team were guilty of a slow start but he put that down to Scotland ‘playing at us’. Schmidt was eager to praise Heaslip and his back row colleagues Chris Henry and Peter O’Mahony. “They put pressure on the ball, they carried well for us and we got a little bit of pressure, too, on the lineout,” he said.
Schmidt won his first Six Nations game as Ireland coach.
The New Zealander felt Devin Toner performed well as lineout leader in the absence of the unwell Paul O’Connell. Schmidt would be ‘very surprised’ if the lock missed out on next Saturday’s visit of Wales. “We’re pretty confident he’d be close to full fitness on Tuesday and definitely by Thursday. We’ll update you, I guess, if that changes,” he added.
The reigning champions have a ‘head-start’ on Ireland, said Schmidt, as they are getting an extra 24 hours to recover from the opening weekend of fixtures. The overall feeling, he remarked, was one of relief rather than happiness.