Jamie Heaslip believes Ireland are on the verge of something special
Jamie Heaslip believes Ireland can make the critics eat their words after their disappointing start to the RBS 6 Nations.
After limping past Italy on the opening weekend Declan Kidney's ageing squad had been accused of being over the hill.
Ireland improved against reigning champions France only to go down 25-22 despite leading for much of the game and having late chances to cause a shock.
But Heaslip, who made a try-scoring return against Les Bleus after an ankle injury, insists there are reasons to be cheerful for the future.
"We've got a very good team and I believe we're not far away from playing the best rugby since I've been with the national team," said Heaslip, who recently spurned the advances of the Top 14 clubs to stay with Irish Rugby Football Union until 2014.
"The squad still has a lot of belief and confidence and we've got some exceptional players in Ireland .
"That's one of the main reasons why I stayed around - we're on the verge of doing something great and playing unbelievable rugby.
"We won't lose our faith because we're still scoring tries. We scored three to one against France and still lost so we're all really frustrated.
"We created chances and caused problems with the ball so we've got to going."
England Under-18 head coach John Fletcher insists his young side will be better for the experience after beating Italy in the bronze final to round out their 2015 Rugby Europe U18 Championship campaign in style.