The ex-Leinster and Lions back-rower on start-ups, cigarette smoke and boa constrictors

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Downtime with… Former Ireland No 8 Jamie Heaslip

How are you finding doing commentary with the BBC?

I’ve enjoyed it. I much prefer it to ‘punditry’ – you say what you see. With punditry you need a beginning, middle and an end, and you have to have an opinion. It has challenged me
to remain a student of the game. In real time you have to say what’s going on, so that it’s interesting and gives insight.

So I’ve recently sat down with Stuart Lancaster – I met him two weeks ago for dinner – and talked with Joe Schmidt.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

One of my first jobs was collecting glasses at a local nightclub when I was 15. It was before the smoking ban came in, so you would come home stinking of cigarettes. I’m laughing about it now because we’ve got a couple of pubs, so it’s kind of come full circle.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve seen on a pitch?

Probably listening to Nigel Owens with one of his one-liners. Sometimes rugby players take themselves too seriously.

Quip thinking: Referee Nigel Owens shares a joke with Kieran Read (Getty Images)

How about funniest team-mate?

Paul O’Donohue or Fergus McFadden. They are like a jack-in-the-box. They’re both from Leinster but on an international level it would be Andy Powell.

There’s very few clean pranks I can tell you about. What’s that old saying? What goes on tour stays on tour.

Do you have any phobias?

For the life of me I can’t understand why anyone would put a boa constrictor around their neck. It’s designed to strangle you! Why do it?

Any guilty pleasures?

Love Island is a guilty pleasure, though I’ve not been into it this season. And I suppose I’m more into my daughter’s cartoons than I thought I would be. At the moment it’s PAW Patrol.

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

I’d like to be with someone like that guy from The Office, David Brent. That’d be time well spent.

Any hidden talents?

Not really but I’d say I’m a good person with dogs.

What winds you up?

People not being loyal. And people saying things on social media they’d never say to your face.

Who would be your dream dinner party guests?

I’d have the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. He’s someone I’ve loved my entire life. It could be a rugby player, but I’d say Connolly, Muhammad Ali and I’d like to talk to Nikola Tesla (inventor/electrical engineer).

Which team-mate would you like to be and why?

I don’t think I’d be any other forward because the further forward you go, the larger they get. But with the backs, the further back you get, the vainer they are too!

So I’ve not played with him but Sergio Parisse is pretty cool. He speaks Italian, French, English and I think Spanish. He’s a pretty good-looking fella, he’s still playing despite being my age and he’s just a slick f*****!

What’s the silliest purchase you’ve made?

Plenty of things! In my twenties I got all these gadgets I shouldn’t have. I was really into T3 magazine for years.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I would be Wolverine. It’s the not aging and also the healing. His whole thing is that he’s continually rejuvenating – it’s why he could have the adamantium skeleton. Not being able to go through a metal detector is first-world problems. And they (the X-Men) had a private jet anyway.

What about work away from rugby?

I have invested in a couple of firms, one of which was sold to Google. I actually worked for Google for 13 months. Right now I spend most of my time working with (FinTech company) Flender – but it depends on the day of the week.

So have you always been into tech?

I am very into it. I’ve invested in a few, like Kitman Labs. I like companies that come in and ask “why?” when things can be done differently. What can we do better? I like working with disruptors.

I was one of the first on social media, because I like breaking the chain of traditional media and going straight to the consumer. I’ve been on it for a long time. I remember being criticised for that and now everyone is on it.

So what kind of investor are you?

I’m definitely more of an angel investor. I don’t follow the money in. I prefer to have a small slice of a big pie than a big slice of a small pie.

This article originally appeared in the April 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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