Jamie Heaslip and Richie McCaw agree on their toughest opponent
Jamie Heaslip and Richie McCaw have come across some of the best to have ever played rugby in their respective careers. Both agree on the toughest player they have ever faced off against.
Heaslip and McCaw are both now ex-pros so they can speak a little more openly than they may have during their long and successful careers.
The pair infamously crossed paths in 2008 when Heaslip - seeking to clear the illegally situated McCaw out of a ruck - kneed the All Blacks captain, twice, and promptly received his marching orders.
As much as the pair respected each other, though, they did not name-check each other when it came to a toughest foe. No, that honour goes to Wallabies flanker George Smith.
Heaslip told BT's Rugby Tonight:
"The person I actually feared most in the back row was actually George Smith. I didn't get to play against him a whole lot but, when I did, it hurt.
"I've never seen a guy as gifted in all facets of the game. His ability to turn over the ball, his ability to get around the field, his distribution and his skills; and he was a good bloke off the field too. I was always one guy I didn't like going up against but I did enjoy the challenge. He was definitely top of the list for me."
Schmidt played Ireland nine times in his excellent, 111-Test career and faced off against Heaslip twice - an 18-12 Wallabies win in Melbourne and a 20-20 draw at Lansdowne Road, with Brian O'Driscoll rescuing Ireland with a late try. Smith made an Aussie comeback on the 2013 Lions Tour that Heaslip was part of.
No doubt about it, when Smith hit you, he HIT YOU:
McCaw can definitely vouch for that. In Super Rugby, Tri Nations, Bledsisloe Cup, Rugby Championship and World Cup action, the New Zealand and Australian flankers had many a ferocious battle.
In a New Zealand Herald interview, McCaw said Smith was his toughest ever opponent and also gave mention to pugnacious Springboks star Schalk Burger.
As for results he wishes he could somehow get back, Heaslip says both of them are for Leinster against Munster - the 2006 Heineken Cup semi-final loss at Lansdowne Road and losing the PRO12 final to Munster just after the Blues had claimed the 2011 Heineken Cup.