Six Nations 2015: Jamie Heaslip back for Ireland after rapid recovery from fractured vertebrae

The Irish No 8, who described himself as 'a stubborn git', missed only one game

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The Independent Online

Jamie Heaslip, a two-tour Lions Test No 8 and one of Europe’s most accomplished forwards, is an optimistic sort, but the Irishman must have thought his Six Nations was done and dusted when the French lock Pascal Papé drove a knee into his back and left him nursing three fractured vertebrae. Yet against all odds, Heaslip will be on the field in Cardiff for Saturday's mighty Six Nations rumble with Wales.

“I don’t listen to outside sources,” said the 31-year-old Leinster player after confirmation he would replace Jordi Murphy of Munster in the middle of the back row – the one change to the side that beat England. “I listen to our trusted medical team and they gave me some very good guidance. I live in a little bubble, day to day and week to week. We mapped out a clear plan, I ticked all the boxes and now I’m good to go.”

Heaslip, who described himself as “a stubborn git”, missed only one game. His early return enhances Ireland’s prospects of closing in on a Grand Slam by winning in Wales for the fifth time in seven Six Nations outings – as will the emotional charge certain to be sparked by their captain, Paul O’Connell. The revered Munster lock will win his 100th cap at the Millennium Stadium.

 

Meanwhile, France’s coach Philippe Saint-André has performed major surgery on Les Bleus by changing more than half the team for Sunday’s game with Italy. The Bayonne full-back Scott Spedding, the Clermont Auvergne wing Noa Nakaitaci, the Toulouse midfielder Gaël Fickou and two Toulon players, the centre Maxime Mermoz and the scrum-half Sébastien Tillous-Borde, have won starting places, as have the prop Nicolas Mas of Montpellier, the Stade Français lock Alexandre Flanquart and the La Rochelle No 8 Loann Goujon.

Fickou was given the nod ahead of the far bigger – and far slower – Mathieu Bastareaud, who must make do with a seat on the bench.

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