Those Who Think Heaslip Wasn’t Brilliant Don’t Understand Rugby Says Former Teammate

“He is one of the all-time greats.”

Former Leinster and Ireland winger says those who don’t think Jamie Heaslip was a brilliant player, don’t understand rugby at all. Heaslip announced his retirement from the game yesterday, after failing to recover from a back-injury picked up this time last year.

Writing for The Independent, Fitzgerald says Heaslip is one of Ireland’s all-time greats. He says Heaslip is a rare breed of player that never seemed to get “fazed” no matter the stakes. He says Heaslip has always been “been big on the smaller details” and that’s why coaches loved him.

“Nothing ever fazed him. Jamie would get stuck in and be really competitive but he would never lose the head.

That really stood to him because it meant that he was unbelievably accurate all the time. You hear everyone talking about him being a clever player and it’s for reasons like that.

For as long as I can remember, Jamie has been big on the smaller details. That’s why Joe Schmidt – and every other coach he worked under – was such a huge fan.

Coaches and players knew that Jamie would never let you down and that he would always deliver for you.

Lots of players can do all the work behind the scenes but delivering on the day is an entirely different matter. You never had to worry about that when it came to him.

That’s what makes him such a great player, and for me he is one of the all-time greats. He’s right up there in our top 10, if not top five, players ever.”

Heaslip has had his fare share of critics over the years. But Fitzgerald says those “who didn’t think Jamie Heaslip was a brilliant player didn’t understand rugby at all.”

“I don’t often disagree with Drico, but I noticed yesterday that he said that you had to play with Jamie to really appreciate him, but I just always thought that people who didn’t think Jamie Heaslip was a brilliant player didn’t understand rugby at all.

It’s as simple as that. He was an outstanding rugby player. That should never have been up for debate. He consistently showed up for the big moments.

I think back to his last-ditch tackle on Stuart Hogg at Murrayfield in 2015. That summed Jamie up. Everyone else is thinking, ‘Okay, it doesn’t really matter, we’re going to win here anyway.’

But Jamie saves the day and we win the Six Nations. I don’t think that tackle ever got enough credit. It was an absolutely brilliant moment and it was exactly why people loved playing with Jamie.

It’s all about the fine margins at the top level of professional sport, and he epitomised the finer details.

You could see him doing that extra little bit at training and then when he went home, you just knew he was doing even more – whether that was watching analysis videos or sleeping in an oxygen tent.”

He was constantly working when no one is watching and for me, that is a great sign of a special bloke.

I can never remember him ever having a bad training session. Everyone has an off day, myself included, but not Jamie.

You can read Fitzgerald’s full piece on Heaslip here