Jamie Heaslip believes Ireland are heading in the right direction to win the 2019 World Cup — even though they have only won seven of their last 15 matches.
The veteran No 8 said at the time of that quarter-final defeat he couldn’t envisage still being around to play in Japan a few months short of his 36th birthday.
However, his dream of filling in the one remaining blank on his stellar rugby CV was the prime reason why he put pen to paper last Tuesday on an IRFU extension taking him through to the end of the next World Cup.
Heaslip admitted he has sacrificed a lot but tasting success makes him want more
‘There is one thing I haven’t won that I would like to win [the World Cup]; maybe add a couple of more things to what Leinster have done as well,’ he said.
‘We would all agree we would like to see that [win the World Cup]. Everyone involved wouldn’t be involved if they don’t have those ambitions. But you have got to work back from there to what we can do today, build on that tomorrow.
‘You might have that long-term ambition but one thing I have learned is that when you start looking down the road, it is the thing in front of you that kills. You have to keep your eye in front of you and what is going on.
The No 8 is still hungry for success but is wary of thinking too much about the future
‘I like winning. Any professional player has ambitions. I have been lucky to have a lot of success and it makes you hungry for more. ‘It makes you see all the weird, crazy stuff we do sacrifice-wise, family-wise, friends-wise, that it can pay off in a big, big way. That is something that drives me.
‘By that  statement I probably just meant, you just don’t know in rugby. I have seen too many guys who started at the same time but were younger, guys who started after me who had career-ending injuries.
‘I felt very lucky to be able to go to two of them and if I get a chance to go to a third hat would be amazing. ‘Physically and mentally I feel very good.’
Jamie Heaslip is targeting success at the 2019 World Cup after signing a new deal
How good will he feel after coming up next Saturday against Louis Picamoles, the rejuvenated French No8? ‘He’s a big man. Surprisingly dynamic. I don’t think he gets enough credit. Some people just think he’s a huge man; he’s a really gifted footballer,’ said Heaslip.
Ireland are preparing for France with a squad of 34, minus injured flanker Josh van der Flier, who is expected to be out for around six weeks after injuring his shoulder in Leinster’s win over Edinburgh last Friday.
However, with both Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney only taking limited part in Monday training, it won’t be until this afternoon’s session that the availability of the long-serving duo will be confirmed.