Heaslip resists verbal sparring

Fri, 08 Feb 2013 17:50
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Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip insists it is the memory of last year's heavy defeat rather than an inherent hatred of England that will drive his side on on Sunday.

Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip insists it is the memory of last year's heavy Six Nations defeat rather than an inherent hatred of England that will drive his side on in Dublin on Sunday.

Indeed, given the chance to indulge in some "England bashing" on Friday, Heaslip instead described opposing skipper and rival back row forward Chris Robshaw as a "lovely guy".

England sportsmen are often branded "arrogant" on account of the country's imperial history and founding role in so many team games such as rugby, football and cricket.

Former Scotland coach Jim Telfer weighed in last week, labelling England "not as good as they think they are" after their record-breaking 38-21 win over world champions New Zealand in December.

Whatever the truth of Telfer's comments, England's first match since that shock defeat of the All Blacks saw them beat his beloved Scotland by 20 points in a 38-18 Calcutta Cup success at Twickenham last Saturday.

Telfer's remarks were put to Heaslip on Friday but the No.8 insisted he'd no grudge against England.

"I met Chris [Robshaw] two weeks ago and he's a lovely guy. I can't say a bad word about him. Any of the other guys I've played with from the England set up have always been quite nice and great guys.”

What wasn't "lovely" for Heaslip or his Ireland team mates was last year's match at Twickenham where England demolished the visitors' scrum in a crushing 30-9 victory.

"That day was a tough day to be sitting in the changing room afterwards, feeling you didn't do the jersey proud," said Heaslip.

"You bank them, any big loss you have to bank them."

England coach Stuart Lancaster, the son of a Scottish mother and a former Scotland Under-19 international, was spared the rough edge of Telfer's tongue on account of being "down to earth" as a result of growing up in the north, not far from the border with Scotland.

Lancaster emerged from the shadows of guiding England's reserve Saxons last year after the far more high-profile Martin Johnson, the 2003 World Cup-winning captain, quit after the side's poor showing on and off the field at the 2011 edition in New Zealand.

A former schoolmaster, as is Ireland coach Declan Kidney and numerous other successful rugby coaches, Lancaster has been unafraid to back his own judgment.

Clive Woodward, England coach when Johnson lifted the Webb Ellis Cup, wanted Lancaster to recall the fit-again Manu Tuilagi, who scored one and created two of England's three tries against the All Blacks, after the centre missed the Scotland match with an ankle problem.

Lancaster, though, stood by his midfield duo of Billy Twelvetrees, who made a try-scoring England debut against Scotland, and defensive linchpin Brad Barritt, with Tuilagi on the bench.

"Manu was injured on January 13 and his first on-field rugby session was Tuesday," Lancaster told Sky Sports. "To play a full 80 minutes against Ireland after that would be difficult for any player.

"Billy was quietly pleased with his debut although he doesn't shout it from the rooftops. He gives us another dimension to our attacking game and he deserves to keep his place.

"Brad has been outstandingly consistent and had another good game for us at the weekend."

The 24-year-old Twelvetrees only became a Premiership regular after a pre-season move from Leicester to Gloucester, but an unconcerned Lancaster said: "Experience counts for something but it doesn't count for everything for me."

AFP

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