For some sports fans, today represents just another fixture in the football calendar.
But Sport-locker.net are buzzing off chops for the start of a different sporting event today – and that’s because Six Nations rugby is here….
Some outlets are even blowing up tv sets in a bid to get viewers excited!
We’ve decided to go for an old fashioned approach, so an interview will have to do! We caught up with Ireland pair Jamie Heaslip and Gordan D’Arcy ahead of the opening match against Wales…
You’re both in the Ireland squad for the RBS 6 Nations, how do you rate your chances in the competition?
JH: As I always say, I think we have a very competitive squad and if we play to the standards that I know we can I think we’re going to be hard to compete with. Getting back into the Ireland camp and seeing all the lads again will be good.
GD: We are going to be very competitive this year; it will all depend on how we start against Wales which is bound to be an emotionally charged game. Getting off to a winning start is the goal of any campaign.
After seeing the other Nations announce their squads, who do you expect to be the toughest challenge?
JH: I think England are going to throw a bit of a curve ball peoples way. Wales beat us fair and square in the quarter final and the Welsh teams are doing very well in the Pro 12 and in the European Cup. France are always going to be hard to beat. Italy are coming on leaps and bounds with their introduction into the Pro 12. Now it’s the second season for their clubs to be involved and they’re getting better and better the more time they spend with each other. Scotland will be sticky as well as we found playing against their clubs so they’re flying high. Edinburgh and Glasgow are doing very well in the Pro 12 and in the European Cup. So I really can’t pick out one.
GD: I think France will be the toughest challenge – they’ve got a strong squad.
You are now regarded as stalwarts for club and country, are there any players breaking through that you feel with have bright futures in the game?
GD: Brendan Macken, Andrew Conway, Rhys Ruddock are a few of the young guys that are coming through in Leinster.
JH: There are lots of young players. I know with Leinster we are blessed especially with the back row. We have Rhys Ruddock and Leo Auva’a who is an unbelievable player with an unbelievable step. In the backs we’ve got Brendan Macken, Andrew Conway and Ian Madigan even though he’s not that young! Devin Toner is also starting to come of age in the pack. The list goes on and on. We’ve got props like Cian Healy, Jack McGrath, Jamie Hagan so there’s a constant stream of talent. I think Leinster might be slightly ahead of the game when it comes to bringing talent through. I’m not too sure about the other provinces as I actually don’t watch a lot of rugby so I really can’t say.
How are you finding the season so far?
JH: Good. The World Cup didn’t go our way but I came back and got in the mix with Leinster and we’re going very well. We’re now qualified for a home quarter final in the Heineken Cup and we’re top of the Rabo Direct Pro 12 so we’re doing alright.
GD: It’s been really good. We had a great start to the World Cup but it didn’t finish exactly how we would have liked. Saying that we got great support from the crowds in New Zealand as well as at home which was fantastic. It’s great to get straight back into it with Leinster, we’re going really well in Europe. Here we are at the start of the Six Nations with a chance to prove ourselves against Wales who knocked us out of the World Cup.
Leinster has been an unstoppable force in the Heineken Cup recently winning the competition twice in three years. Why have you been so successful?
JH: It’s hard to pin point one aspect, to me it’s the organisation as a whole from the training, the coaching, the strength conditioning, the videos analysis to the marketing and commercial team, they’re all at the top of their game. All this added together has made us the team we are today.
GD: I think we‘ve a great work ethic as a team and are mentally very strong. There is a hunger in the team and will to win.
It seems Leinster and Toulouse are being billed as this year’s favourites, what’s your prediction?
GD: There’s no doubt Toulouse are a quality side and have great pedigree in the competition. For me we’re only as good as our last match and like every team have areas we need to improve on. We’ll keep trying to improve and build on the previous performance. How we approach the competition is that, we’re 100% focused on the Cardiff game. If we end up facing Toulouse then we’ll approach it like any other match.
JH: I think we’ve got Cardiff at home and we’ve got to worry about that first. I don’t know who Toulouse have but there are a lot of good sides. Look at Munster, they have won all their group games. Ulster are going very well, they did well against Clermont and were unfortunate to lose. Nathan Hines our old team mate taking a bit of abuse over that game!
Who’s the hardest/toughest player you’ve ever played with and against?
JH: Shane Jennings would be one of the toughest nuts – he’s even played with a broken arm!
GD: I’ve had the pleasure of playing with and the misfortune of playing against Felipe Contepomi who you love to play with but hate to play against. Others that stand out are M’aa Nonu and Yannick Jauzion.
Who’s the best player you have played alongside?
GD: Playing alongside Brian O’Driscoll for so many years has been a pleasure, he’s a class act.
JH: I agree. Brian O’Driscoll is another tough nut and a great leader. Felipe Contepomi has always been a favourite of mine as well.
It’s seemingly ever popular to spend the last of you playing days abroad, would you ever consider a move to France or the Southern Hemisphere?
GD: I probably wouldn’t at this stage
JH: I had to strongly consider this last year when my contract was up. There’s a lot of things a player must consider, where you want to play, the organisation you want to work with, what’s best for you at the time. I stayed with Leinster because I think they are an organisation who are ahead of everyone else and because I’m ambitious and believe Leinster can deliver results. I’d have no problem going to play in France, South Africa, Australia or Japan.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
JH: I’ve had many highlights; winning two Heineken Cups, winning the Celtic League, winning the Grand Slam and getting play for the Lions to name a few!
GD: I’ve been very lucky playing rugby for 14 years so it’s tough to single out one. If I have to pick a few I’d say; getting my first cap for Ireland, winning the Triple Crown for the first time, winning the Grand Slam and the celebrations arriving back home and coming back from my broken arm with a try against France.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on the Rugby pitch?
JH: Playing against Neil Best was always a pleasure because he would come out with brilliant jokes at the bottom of a ruck. He once asked someone who was playing against him on Stephens’s day what he got from Santa after taking him down in a tackle… I thought it was quality!
How long have you been wearing PUMA Rugby Boots?
GD: I’ve been wearing PUMA Rugby Boots for about eight years, but I used to wear them when I was a kid in school. I wore PUMA Kings playing Leinster Senior and Junior Cup competitions.
JH: I’ve been wearing PUMA’s for about three years now.
You wear the PUMA V1-11, why did you choose that boot?
JH: Functionally they’re the very comfortable and light. The fact that they come in lots of different colours is a bonus!
GD: I agree, we’re in them so much that weight and comfort are massive factors. The layout of the studs gives a good balance between the front and back of the boot.
What are the main attributes you look for in a pair of Rugby Boots?
GD: Because I do a lot of stepping changing of direction I like my boots to give me a lot of support and security so that when I step hard it’s important to know that my boot is going to react to my movement giving me the support I need. To be honest pretty much any of the PUMA boots I’ve used have been top notch. Comfort is also a big factor – sometimes with inferior boots and you can feel the studs come through into your heels, toes and sole of your foot. That’s not a nice thing when you’re wearing them as much as we do.
JH: That they give you good support. For me the V1-11’s make me feel like I’m not actually wearing anything on my feet and they give me good control.
Are you one for holding onto boots for sentimental value?
JH: No I’m not one for holding onto boots. I’m lucky that PUMA look after me and I generally give my old boots to my mates. If you head out to watch Naas J3’s you’ll spot quite a few of my old boots enjoying their retirement form professional rugby!
GD: To be honest, no. By the time I’m finished with them they’re fairly wrecked.
Black boots of bright colours?
JH: White is my favourite colour but anything bright and colourful. My favourite ones so far are white or canary yellow which I have worn a couple of times.
GD: Unlike Jamie I am a fan of standard black boots.