Six Nations
Ireland name Jamie Heaslip captain
ESPN Staff
January 17, 2013
Ireland's Jamie Heaslip celebrates scoring against Scotland, Scotland v Ireland, Six Nations, Murrayfield, Edinburgh, February 27, 2011
Jamie Heaslip will skipper Ireland in the Six Nations © Getty Images

Analysis by ESPNscrum's Graham Jenkins

  • There is no room for sentimentality in top flight sport even if you are one of the greatest players to have laced up a pair of boots.
  • As fitting as it may appear to some for Brian O'Driscoll to lead Ireland into what many people believe could be his last Six Nations, it would mean taking a step back. Time is not on his side.
  • Injuries forced Declan Kidney's hand in the autumn and having started to plot a course to the next Rugby World Cup, a stage O'Driscoll cannot realistically hope to grace, they have done the right thing by keeping their faith in Jamie Heaslip.
  • If O'Driscoll was at his defence-splitting best then there may have been a case for him to reclaim the captaincy, but having just recovered from ankle surgery the right decision was to allow him to concentrate on his fitness.
  • O'Driscoll still clearly has a role to play in Ireland's midfield where his presence is just as inspirational whether he has the armband of not and he is some way from hanging up his boots altogether with the small matter of a British & Irish Lions tour looming on the horizon.
  • Don't expect O'Driscoll to play any less than the central role in the Six Nations and his leadership skills will still come to the fore as a member of a senior group that also includes the likes of Rory Best and Jonathan Sexton. He may also still be a flag bearer for the British & Irish Lions later this year given his status.
  • His influence is also sure to be evident in Heaslip's captaincy with the No.8 having emerged as a world class player under O'Driscoll's charge with province and country.
  • Heaslip is cut from the same cloth, an inspirational figure with warrior-like qualities and Ireland are in safe hands for the World Cup and beyond.

Ireland boss Declan Kidney has named Leinster's No.8 Jamie Heaslip his skipper for the forthcoming Six Nations.

Heaslip will preside over the 39-man training squad that was unveiled on Thursday. The party includes six uncapped players who will remain hopeful of getting a run out in the Six Nations but will also be in the frame to play England on January 25 in the Irish Wolfhounds' match.

Kidney has opted to call up Connacht's uncapped duo Robbie Henshaw and Dave McSharry while Ulster's Paddy Jackson has also got the nod. And there are also call ups for Ulster's Lewis Stevenson, his team-mate Paul Marshall and Leinster's Ian Madigan.

Madigan's team-mate Luke Fitzgerald gets the nod despite having played just 124 minutes of rugby for Leinster since April last year. He last turned out for Ireland before the 2011 World Cup but with the British & Irish Lions tour on the horizon, he will hope to force his way back into the frame and add to the Test cap he collected in 2009.

And it is Fitzgerald's Leinster team-mate Heaslip that will lead the party. He led Ireland during the autumn series with former skipper Brian O'Driscoll sidelined but despite O'Driscoll's return to the training squad, Kidney has opted for the No.8.

"I was incredibly honoured when Declan asked me back in November to lead the team in Brian's absence," Heaslip said. "To lead your country is the ultimate in any sport. To get the opportunity again, considering what an inspirational leader Brian is and the other players who could have been chosen to captain the team, is even more humbling. I know Brian as a teammate and as a friend and I will be relying on his and the other players support as we head into the Championship."

O'Driscoll claimed he was "very disappointed" to miss out on the captaincy but he will support Heaslip fully. O'Driscoll said: "The captaincy has been a big part of my career and life over the last number of years, and while I was naturally very disappointed not to be leading the team in the Six Nations, when I talked it through with Declan I accepted the reasons behind the decision.

"I've always known that the Rugby World Cup in 2015 was most likely a bridge too far for me, so at some point a player, who will most likely be there for the tournament, needs to build that captaincy experience. Jamie will do a fantastic job and along with the other senior players in the leadership group, I will be giving him all of the support that he needs."

And with O'Driscoll having spent much of the last year on the sidelines, Kidney wants his talismanic centre to be focusing purely on his own form rather than the added distraction of the captaincy.

"Jamie had done a really good job for the squad and management during November and I felt that now was the correct time to do this," Kidney said. "Brian has had very little rugby in the last number of months and I think he deserves the space and time to concentrate on getting himself back playing fully fit.

"We need Brian the player just as much as we need Brian the captain and typical of the man and the selfless way he has contributed to Irish Rugby and the Ireland team, he has said that the captain and the team would have his full support."

Ireland kick-off their Six Nations campaign on February 2 against 2012 Six Nations champions Wales and Kidney is relishing the chance to see his team build on their morale boosting win over Argentina in November. He will also cast a watchful eye to the Wolfhounds' match on January 25 in which the likes of O'Driscoll and Fitzgerald are rumoured to be in the frame for a run out.

"Our priority is the Wales game, but there is an opportunity in the Wolfhounds match for some of the players as we head into the Six Nations. While the majority of our focus is on the preparations for the Wales game, the coaching staff felt it made sense to have time with the wider group of players and also to have two fully fit teams on the field ready to train after what is usually an attritional end to the group stages in Europe.

"There are quite a few players who have been out injured and could be lacking game time, so this will be the ideal chance for them and the newer members in the squad to challenge for places in the senior team. After the Wolfhounds game we will able to name a smaller squad which will train together and prepare for the Wales game."

Ireland training squad:

Forwards: Michael Bent (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), Tom Court (Ulster), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Declan Fitzpatrick (Ulster), Cian Healy (Leinster), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster), Iain Henderson (Ulster), Chris Henry (Ulster), David Kilcoyne (Munster), Mike McCarthy (Connacht), Sean O'Brien (Leinster), Donncha O'Callaghan (Munster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Mike Ross (Leinster), Donnacha Ryan (Munster), Lewis Stevenson (Ulster), Richardt Strauss (Leinster), Devin Toner (Leinster)

Backs: Isaac Boss (Leinster), Darren Cave (Ulster), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster), Keith Earls (Munster), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster), Craig Gilroy (Ulster), Robbie Henshaw (Connacht), Paddy Jackson (Ulster), Rob Kearney (Leinster), Ian Madigan (Leinster), Paul Marshall (Ulster), Conor Murray (Munster), Fergus McFadden (Leinster), Dave McSharry (Connacht), Brian O'Driscoll (Leinster), Ronan O'Gara (Munster), Eoin Reddan (Leinster), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster), Andrew Trimble (Ulster), Simon Zebo (Ulster)

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