Jamie Heaslip Sheds Light On How He Almost Ended Up Playing In Japan

Jamie Heaslip Sheds Light On How He Almost Ended Up Playing In Japan

While he's waiting to make his return from injury after having back surgery last year, Jamie Heaslip is still very much focused on doing all he can to help Ireland and Leinster to achieve their goals this season.

He said as much in an interview with The Rugby Business Network podcast this week, where he was quizzed on a wide range of topics over the course of his 12 year professional career thus far, including his loyalty to the club that he has been representing since he was a teenager.

It was here that we learned that Heaslip came close to leaving Leinster after the 2011 World Cup.

We've said in the past that there is great enjoyment to be taken in following an Irish player in a foreign league as it's so rare when it comes to the round ball, but the same is true for rugby as you keep an eye out for results and can end up adopting a team in a new league. That said, it would have been crazy to see Jamie Heaslip playing his rugby in Japan at the age of 26.

Heaslip gave an honest assesment of why he remained loyal to Leinster down the years, before admitting that a Japanese adventure very nearly happened in 2011.

The modern-day players, you know it's not soccer money that we're on, so you do have to look at the opportunities that are out there in the market. Especially in other rugby markets where there is a lot more TV money in those leagues and stuff like that, but then you also have to look at what is best for you as a player in terms of your overall wellbeing, how they will look after you, longevity, a mix of all those things.

As well as, in Ireland, we tend to be quite tribal and that's where a club like Leinster - I've been playing representative rugby with Leinster since I was 14 or 15 - it's amazing to be able to start out at 14, I'm 33 now, and still be playing in the blue of Leinster. It's quite a unique thing in professional rugby that players stay with a club that long.

I think there are a lot more challenges now for professionals in terms of looking after themselves off the field, but up to this point I have, every time my contract is up, looked at different clubs.

Back in 2011 I looked at playing up until the end of the 2011 World Cup and then go off to Japan for a season then down to Super 15 rugby and make ala what James Haskell did, but once it all panned out it was better for me to stay in Ireland.

I'm delighted by the choices I've made, and I 100% stand by them, but at the same time I always tell players coming through that they have to be a little bit selfish in a way. They have to be happy with the deal they made, be it going abroad or staying at a club.

It's a short time that we play, I think the average career ends in seven years, in Ireland there's only 6% of players who have had a career longer than 12 years, so it's over before you know it and you've got to be happy with the decisions that you make.

As Heaslip alluded to, it would not have been uncharted territory for a player from this part of the world.


James Haskell took the plunge in 2011 and played a season for the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan's 'Top League' before joining Super Rugby's Highlanders the following season.

Had Heaslip done something similar it would have raised a few eyebrows for sure, but instead he stayed put and was rewarded with a Heineken Cup winner's medal at the end of that season.

It's difficult to imagine Heaslip playing in anything other than the blue of Leinster at club level, but it would have been interesting to see how he would have faired in Super Rugby.

You can listen to Heaslip's chat with The Rugby Business Network below.

Mikey Traynor

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