The Leinster star missed the New Zealand trip through injury
For the first time in twelve years, Jamie Heaslip is not part of the British and Irish Lions squad.
If the Ireland and Leinster star is disappointed about not travelling, he has hidden it well. Speaking on Tuesday to Newstalk.com, the injured Heaslip spoke of his pride and excitement for the five Leinster players making the trip, especially first-time Lions Jack McGrath, Tadhg Furlong and Robbie Henshaw.
"It was great talking to the guys, Tadhg, Jack and Robbie about their first tour," Heaslip revealed with a smile beaming across his face. "They were asking for tips about it, and seeing that excitement in them. I was just really happy that they hold the Lions in high regard."
The last time the Lions went onto without Heaslip was in 2005, in the infamous tour to New Zealand under Clive Woodward. The Dubliner revealed his recovery from injury has given him a newfound grá for the team.
"I’ve come back to being a bit of a fan. It’s great being a Lions fan again. I’m getting flashbacks from 1997. I remember coming out the Gaeltacht on the Sunday, and watching the games recorded and falling in love with it then.
"I’m enjoying my almost mini-sabbatical from rugby. I’m enjoying seeing those lads get excited about it. I know what that feeling is like. It’s a good opportunity for them."
Furlong and Henshaw are both in the early stages of their careers. Heaslip can see the duo becoming regular Lions tourists in the years to come.
Tadhg Furlong, Jack McGrath and Scrum coach Graham Rowntree. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
"Tadhg is 23. Robbie is 23. They have another potential two tours in them. Tadhg is a prop. He could have three tours in him."
Eleven Irish players have made the trip to New Zealand, and Heaslip has said when it comes to picking the team for the First Test, he has no issues being partisan in his hopes.
"I’m 100% biased when I say I want all the Irish guys to start.
"Sean [O’Brien] is so dynamic, he plays a lot at 7, but he can also play 6 or 8. That probably gives him an advantage in a matchday squad.
“The front row, we probably have our best chances. Jack and Tadhg have been going really well and have they have a really good shot at it.
“I think Johnny [Sexton] is the best 10 in the World. It constantly switches between him and Beauden Barrett.
“Robbie is in a competitive spot in midfield. You saw the damage against New Zealand in the last two games for Ireland. He has all the skills to challenge them.
“If I’m biased, all the Leinster guys start!”
Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien played together on the 2013 Tour. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Lions No. 760, Heaslip is proud to have played a small part in the history of the team. Four years ago, he revealed he even stole a plaque with his name and Lions number on it to put up in his own home
"It was about knowing your place in history and the legacy of that jersey… For players, it remains the pinnacle.”
As a two-time tourist, the 33-year-old’s time in the red of the Lions has come to an end, but he still has no issues giving advice to his provincial teammates.
"I told the lads to enjoy it. 'Just enjoy it. Enjoy everything. You’re good players… [the Lions] is really unique. Try not to get to cliquey with the Irish guys. Put yourselves out there.’"
With five Test appearances, and a series victory on his Lions CV, Heaslip is looking forward to getting a perspective on the team from another angle.
Jamie Heaslip was speaking in Dublin on Tuesday at the launch of CocoFuzion100, a new range of coconut water drinks.