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Rugby | Six Nations

Jamie Heaslip © Gallo Images

Ireland's Heaslip glad of O'Driscoll backing



Jamie Heaslip said on Wednesday he foresaw no problems in leading an Ireland side in the Six Nations set to feature former captain Brian O'Driscoll.

No 8 Heaslip led the side during their end-of-year series in 2012 when star centre O'Driscoll, Ireland's captain when fit since 2004, was recovering from an ankle injury.

However, the midfielder is now available for Ireland's tournament opener away to Wales in Cardiff on February 2.

"I spoke to Brian (O'Driscoll) and he said he's 100 percent behind me," Heaslip told reporters at the Six Nations launch in London.

"But the dynamic won't change. He's been on the pitch for Leinster when I've been captain and vice-versa and we've both been on the pitch playing when neither of us has been captain."

Heaslip added he was so overjoyed to be re-appointed Ireland captain it was all he could do to stop himself embracing coach Declan Kidney.

"I'm still buzzing about the whole thing. When Declan told me last week I had to stop myself climbing over the table and kissing him."

Ireland had a mixed end to 2012, losing 16-12 to South Africa before defeating an improving Argentina side 46-24.

"I learned a lot in November and pretty quickly, about on and off field stuff," Heaslip said.

Kidney, explaining his reasons for retaining Heaslip as Ireland captain, said: "He did a good job in November and the decision was also about giving Brian some space, not that he wanted it."

Ireland have lost their last three internationals against Wales and Heaslip said: "Three defeats in a row, they're a tough side.

"We were a few points up last year and thought it was probably won but they got a try and then the penalty to win it.

"Their results in November (which formed part of a Wales losing streak of seven successive tests against all opponents) don't really reflect their form, one or two scores could have made it a very different outcome.

"The first game is a massive momentum builder. You can't win a Grand Slam in the first game but you can lose it," Heaslip added.

This season's Six Nations has been given added spice by the fact players from the Home Unions (England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales) will be competing for places on the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia later in the year.

"Every player's goal and dream is to go on a Lions tour," said Heaslip, who played in all three tests for the combined side against South Africa in 2009.

"I try not to think about it too much," the 29-year-old added.

"The experience I had was amazing, probably the best tour I've ever been on, such a melting pot of talent.

"It would be amazing to go on another but playing in the Six Nations is the process and selection for the Lions is the potential result."

As for leading the Lions, Heaslip said: "I do let myself dream about it – who wouldn't? But there are a lot a fantastic players out there, some who aren't even captaining their country."

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