Rugby

"I've Had Great Fun Slagging Him Off" - Keith Wood Has Changed His Tune On Heaslip

"I've Had Great Fun Slagging Him Off" - Keith Wood Has Changed His Tune On Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip is someone who has come in for a lot of criticism from all corners of Irish rugby over the past two seasons, but tonight during a discussion on Off The Ball between Ger Gilroy, Gerry Thornley, and Keith Wood, the Leinster number eight was praised for upping his game over the past year.

With so much talent available at the position, many have called for Heaslip to be dropped, and when a listener texted into Newstalk asking in what world was Heaslip guaranteed his place for Ireland, both Thornley and Wood came to his defence.

Former Ireland captain Wood revealed that he himself has been one of Heaslip's biggest critics in recent times, claiming that he "had great fun slagging him off", but then outlined why he thought that the Leinster man had kicked up a gear and returned to the form that we all know he is capable of playing at.

Well I've had great fun slagging him off over the years if I'm to be honest, but I thought in the middle of last season he actually kicked up a gear. I thought he played really well.

I thought he ended last season playing really well, this year I think he's started well, for me it's all down to that dynamism that's going to be needed and wanted, if he plays there's going to be quicker guys that need to play, but he mops up a huge amount of work and I would have been critical of that at times because I remembered the 2009 guy who covered a huge amount of ground, got over the gain line, as a ball carrying, ball playing, number eight which he has changed, he isn't that guy any more though he still shows signs of it now and then.

I have taken to appreciate his skills and his ability to mop things up, he is a fair amount of glue for that Irish team, and a huge amount of glue for the Leinster team.

He actually plays a bit more with ball in hand with Leinster, so I think again, you do the job you're asked to do, that's why I'm talking about the dynamic, what other players are around to do different jobs and what's the best thing to actually have, and I think he can play in several ways, I still liked the running Jamie Heaslip because I liked to see a number eight that is able to attack the ball over the gain line a lot more because it puts a slightly better shape for an Irish team.

Gerry Thornley then added:

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You never see him make a mistake. You never see him miss a tackle, you never see him lose the ball in possession, his break down work is ultra effective, and he plays 80 minutes every single time.

He will still not be everybody's cup of tea, particularly outside of Leinster, but he remains a key component of Joe Schmidt's plans, and his form has unquestionably improved since the mid-way stage of last season where he was being criticised week in, week out.

Wood and Thornley were speaking on Wednesday's nights episode of 'Off The Ball' which you can listen to in full over on Newstalk.ie

Mikey Traynor

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