The Official Online RBS 6 Nations Store is open. The store has everything you need to get behind your team during the RBS 6 Nations, plus the store is now fully stocked with a much wider range of rugby merchandise.
Going into the tournament as many people’s dark horses if they can overcome their recent losing streak to Wales in their opening match in Cardiff on Saturday, there will be plenty ready to put the boot in if Heaslip’s Ireland fail.
Brian O’Driscoll is practically royalty in Ireland and so there were plenty who were surprised when he didn’t regain the captaincy upon returning to fitness.
Head coach Declan Kidney has been aware of Heaslip’s attributes for a while though now. After all it was the current head coach who gave his new captain his first professional contract at Leinster.
And Heaslip, now 29 and with 52 Ireland caps to his name, believes his relationship with Kidney can help his side build on their impressive autumn performance against Argentina and come up on the rails to pip favourites England and France.
“It’s great to be captain, it’s fantastic, especially for the Six Nations, something I was raised on. I’m giddy and I’m excited,” said Heaslip.
“Deccy gave me a call and asked me to come and see me and he asked me if I wanted to be captain and I had to stop myself jumping across the table to give him a hug. I was chuffed and humbled and there were all sorts of emotions for myself but It was very proud.
“Deccy is the first coach who ever game me my first professional contract back at Leinster so we go back a while, he’s still the same guy and you can still talk to him.
“It’s pretty open dialogue and he understands what the team needs, especially in camp life, he understands that dynamic.”
When Heaslip was unveiled as captain for the RBS 6 Nations, O’Driscoll admitted his disappointment but also vowed to back his Leinster clubmate and new skipper to the hilt.
And Heaslip revealed captaining O’Driscoll will be nothing new.
“We were still in Leinster and we both tend to be in pretty early and I was in and the minute I saw him he came up to me and congratulated me and told me he was 100 per cent behind me,” added Heaslip. “He reiterated what Deccy said that as a collective we have some great leaders in the squad and it’s the real power of our squad.
“But it’s fantastic to have Brian to call on for experience. I’ve been captain while he’s been on the pitch at Leinster and I know that dynamic works very well.
“He doesn’t change, Leo Cullen is captain at Leinster, he’s the same man, teammate, friend and he goes about his business exactly the same way.”
Crucial to Ireland’s RBS 6 Nations hopes will be getting off to a good start against Wales, who they have lost to in each of their last three meetings, including their 2011 World Cup quarter-final defeat.
And while Wales begin the tournament on the back of seven straight defeats, Heaslip is expecting no easy ride.
“I don’t expect any different team, they’re going to be a tough team,” said Heaslip.
“A lot of people probably wrote them off because of their form in November but I look at those games and it shows that if you make a mistake you get punished.
“They did that to us last year, we were leading by 14 or 15 points but then two mistakes, two tries, another mistake, another penalty and that was game over.
“They are a team that you can’t write off and they are a tough team and talking to Sam, they seem pretty motivated ahead of the match.”