RICHARDT STRAUSS DID not join up with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad for Six Nations preparations this week, but his early return after heart surgery is still on the mind of his Leinster team-mates.
Speaking with Irish Rugby TV in today’s nugget from Carton House, Jamie Heaslip was not asked about his protracted contract situation, but did speak in glowing terms of the hooker he calls ‘Little Hobbit’.
“It was good to see him getting back training over the last few few weeks,” says Heaslip, “he was excited to get back out on the field, especially after everything that has transpired for him over the last few months.”
The South African-born Ireland international had been expected to miss the entire season (or worse) after a routine examination discovered a hole in his heart early this season. However, the successful surgery allowed the 27-year-old make a surprise return to the bench for last Friday’s Heineken Cup win over Ospreys.
And, once he was summoned to the field in the second half, the venue certainly didn’t let his introduction go unnoticed.
“He was a little taken aback by the standing ovation he got when he took to the field in the RDS.
“The support there was amazing for him. i think all the players were delighted to see him get on.
“I think he was blowing for that time he was on the pitch, but he enjoyed every last minute of it.”
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Heaslip was asked about two team-mates who have been included in the Six Nations squad; Rhys Ruddock (who earned his sole cap in 2010) and Jordi Murphy.
“They’re going to bring a lot of energy, a lot of good work ethic. The two guys go about their business really well: they know their knowledge, they do the work off the field, they look after themselves and I think they’re both really excited to be involved in the camp.
He added: “Rhys has got a massive physical presence about him as well as [being] a great line-out option – same with his work-rate.
“Same goes for Jordi, he’s great with ball in hand, he can play eight, seven or six. He’s multi-talented, he was in the backs playing 12 at one stage on Friday night – Jordi’s got a multitude of skills and a great work rate and ethic.
“They’re two guys who are going to bolster it up and increase the form selection put their hand up to Joe and raise the level again.”