World News – GB – Globetrotting Jake Heenan the heart and soul of the Bristol Revolution


Friday’s Challenge Cup final is a highlight for the flanker who followed Pat Lam from New Zealand to Ireland to the Bears

My conversation with Jake Heenan ahead of the Bristol Bears Challenge Cup final against Toulon on Friday night is punctuated by the barking of his dog Brodie, whom he adopted as a rescue puppy in Ireland while playing for Connacht

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The New Zealander’s fate with the Irish province came when he reached his majority as a player under Bristol rugby manager Pat Lam after moving to the northern hemisphere at the age of 21 years old

Other Bristol Kiwis, including former All Blacks John Afoa, club captain Steven Luatua and Charles Piutau, are more recognizable names, but the open flanker has had an intriguing journey, in rugby and in life

Heenan, 28, first met Lam during his tryouts for the Auckland Blues Academy, and it was the coach who first suggested the youngster upgrade to No.7 – a position that he has occupied since then When Lam took over the reins of Connacht in 2013, he made contact with Heenan, who was without a contract but showed his class by becoming New Zealand’s Under-20 captain at the 2012 Junior World Cup. He was attracted to Lam in Bristol in 2018 after being an integral part of his Connacht team which won the Pro12 in 2016

As a result, the couple developed a deep understanding « Now with our relationship, there is a lot of trust there, » says Heenan, who will be leaving the bench tonight « We don’t have too many related conversations in rugby and when we do they are very brief because I know what he expects from me as a coach as a player On the other hand, he trusts me to do my job

« I’ve been with Pat as long as I am because I know we’re going to play good rugby and be well trained and [I will] have the opportunity to enjoy my rugby »

Before becoming a professional, Heenan had lived through a difficult adolescence in Whangarei, the northernmost town of New Zealand Despite the support of his family, he rebelled when his father remarried, this which led to a period when he was briefly homeless Rugby was what kept him focused

« I lived in my car for a few weeks, but I lived between friends’ houses This is a tricky question because looking back, it’s not a normal thing to do, but I had missed several times and that was the situation I was in, ”he says « My rugby has always been an outlet for me as a young man. I got into trouble with the police – it was nothing serious

« I would be in my car outside the gym and brush my teeth and take a shower there It was a hairy situation but one that I provoked myself But having rugby was so important A lot of things that I was doing were very immature, young and loud things to do A lot of the people I had the chance to meet through rugby were like mentors and helped me grow « 

When he started at Auckland academy, the first player he met was Luatua Heenan says players seen as galactics from Bristol actually set the tone for a grounded environment. the senior boys from our club Steven Luatua, John Afoa, Charles Piutau, Siale Piutau, Dave Atwood and then you have the young guys like Callum Sheedy

« You have these guys who are the best at what they do in the world and they are the nicest, hardest working, hardest-working, and welcoming people in the club That’s where it starts Pat often says: « Leadership is the problem but it’s also the answer » and we are motivated by the boys and that makes life a lot easier « 

For Heenan, the chance to win silverware is one he does not take lightly « It’s huge to play for Bristol in the final I don’t have great personal ambitions I want to win trophies with teams and it’s so hard to do, ”he says“ To be able to do it again would be just huge. If you’re on a team like Saracens or Leinster you probably don’t feel quite right. same thing, but for the rest of us it’s a very special thing « 

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Bristol Bears, European Rugby Challenge Cup, Pat Lam, Rugby union, RC Toulonnais, Kyle Sinckler

News from the world – GB – Globetrotting Jake Heenan the heart and soul of the bristol revolution



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