UAE Rugby Player Profile: Bahrain's Ollie Luke

Matt Jones 27/02/2018
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Oliver Luke

Bahrain

Height: 5’ 8” / 176cm

Weight: 78kgs / 12st 2lbs

Position: Fly-half

Age: 30

Birthplace: Brighton, UK

Years in the Middle East: Five

Honours: Representing Worthing in National League 1 for a season

Favourite childhood memory of rugby: Going on a rugby tour to New Zealand with mates at U16 county level, winning five games out of six, beating Wesley College 16-12, and being able to do moves like a double dummy switch, and it actually working

Favourite player growing up: Carlos Spencer, he had such a strut around the pitch and never knew what he was going to do next

Rugby team you support: Harlequins and England

Best international at the moment and why: Beauden Barrett, he’s got it all

Rule you would change and why: A knock-on should be a free-kick to the other team and play from there. Scrums suck so much energy out of players and slow the game down

Best game you ever saw: Don’t watch rugby

Toughest opponent in UAE (team or player): Abu Dhabi Harlequins. Never like playing against them, as they seem to have the winning habit

Funniest/most embarrassing moment in your career: When I was kicking off the final at Bournemouth 7’s. The ref blew the whistle and I kicked up a huge puff of sand and the ball dribbled 10m with the whole crowd laughing

Greatest achievement in any sport: Completing the 70.3 Bahrain Iron Man and many other triathlons and races

If you could be a professional in any other sport what it would be and why? A Triathlete. The reward you get for training so hard and getting such fast times over such long distances

Favourite meal: Sushi, all the Sushi

Favourite place in the Middle East: Muscat, a boat trip along the coastline, or a trip up to the Wadis, you can’t beat it

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Natural leader Jamie Heaslip epitomised what it meant to be Irish

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Jamie Heaslip would huff and puff throughout preseason training before subjecting himself to the thin air of a high altitude tent at night. It is just one story, as the Ireland No8 announced his retirement on Monday, that tells you of the lengths he would go to get the best out of himself.

After 95 caps as an international back-rower, the 34-year-old has been forced to call time on his glittering 14-year career due to an on-going back injury.

The Leinsterman has not played since he sustained the injury in the warm-up to the England match in the Six Nations last March – which ultimately ruled him out of the season.

After two unsuccessful operations, the most recent in late October, the two-time British & Irish Lion has been forced to retire.

As Heaslip steps away from the game, for the opposition, life has become easier, because he brought a whole different level of work-rate, physicality, leadership and professionalism to his game.

Most of all, he delivered a commanding presence and a sense that while he was around, Leinster and Ireland’s packs were in reliable hands with their trusted lieutenant.

Remaining at such a high level for 14 seasons – with just one injury – was an incredible achievement in itself, and doing it in the manner which he did defied the laws of nature.

This makes his retirement, for a man who has put so much in, hard to stomach.

Hailing from Naas – thirty minutes outside of Ireland’s capital, Dublin – he is spoken about like a messiah, and it’s certainly a tag he deserves after an illustrious career in the blue and green jerseys.

His mantelpiece purrs with success, winning three Six Nations championships, two Triple Crowns, one Grand Slam, three Heineken Cups, three Pro12 Titles and one Challenge Cup.

Having watched him since his debut against the Pacific Islands in 2006, it’s been a pleasure to follow his steady rise to domination and whenever he pulled on his green jersey, his performances were full of pride and commitment.

To many followers he epitomised what it means to be Irish.

One of his crowning moments as a player came in the win over France in the 2009 Six Nations when he crashed over for a superb try in a virtuous man-of-the-match display.

That day in Dublin, he was devastating in the loose, eager at the breakdown and underlined his status as a leading figure on the world stage.

To see the reception from the crowd at the end proved how much of an instrumental figure he was, and how much he’ll be missed from the Irish game.

Another personal highlight was his totemic display in the win over Scotland in the 2016 Six Nations when he carried, tackled and bossed the Scottish back-row with great effect.

Although other fans may point to his five caps for the Lions or the various Heineken Cup wins – for me, you could nearly pick any moment as he was a constant thorn when he stepped out on to a rugby field.

Nominated for the World Rugby Player of the Year award in 2009 and 2016, his level of professionalism was head and shoulders above any of his peers.

From altitude tents to reflexology and flotation chambers, he took advice on trying to better himself at every opportunity.

He lived by the mantra that talent is nothing without discipline, and that was backed up in how he carried himself on and off the field.

With this, came a level of consistency that should be an example to all other back-row players.

He had an attacking mindset, which saw him score 33 tries in his 228 appearances for Leinster – as well as 13 tries for Ireland.

Coupled with this is his voracious work-rate, his inspirational pre-match team-talks and his never-say-die attitude which sets him apart from other great names in the game.

After Brian O’Driscoll retired in 2013, he was named captain for Ireland, leading the country in 13 tests. To highlight his leadership, intelligence and fitness, he played the full 80 minutes on 72 occasions for the national side.

It will be unfortunate not to see Heaslip line-up again in the blue jersey of Leinster or green shirt of Ireland, but the journey rolls on, and in steps the likes of CJ Stander and Jack Conan to live up to the expectation of their predecessor.

As Joe Schmidt and Leo Cullen sit down to assess the impact his absence will have going forward, there will be an added drive in the respective teams as they deal with the loss of a man who has been the fulcrum of the side for over a decade.

Although O’Driscoll is Ireland’s greatest player, Heaslip certainly deserves a shout as one of Ireland’s top three best-ever – but certainly the country’s most decorated.

As he hangs up his boots, Heaslip leaves behind a legacy as one of the most successful in the game.

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Ireland's Jamie Heaslip announces retirement due to back injury

Duncan Bech 26/02/2018
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Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip has announced the end of his playing career in order to “ensure my future well being”.

The Leinster number eight has not played since being struck by a lower back injury during the warm-up of last year’s Six Nations victory over England in Dublin, a week after completing 80 minutes against Wales.

After two unsuccessful operations, the most recent in late October, the 34-year-old British and Irish Lion has been forced to retire on 95 caps.

“Time will get us all but it has cornered me earlier than I had hoped,” Heaslip said in a statement.

“Every professional sportsperson always hopes to be able to leave their chosen sport on their terms but too often that’s not the case.

“I have had to take on board the medical advice that I have been given and after talking to Sheena and my family I have taken the difficult decision to retire with immediate effect in order to ensure my future well being.

“I’m very proud to finish my career as a one club man having played amongst some of the best in the game, who are all like a family to me.

“I’ve had the time of my life on and off the rugby pitch but now it’s time for the next chapter.”

Heaslip was a skilful back row known for a robustness during a relatively injury-free career and leaves the game having won three Six Nations titles and the 2009 Grand Slam.

“Jamie was utterly professional, driven to succeed and a leader with the actions he delivered,” Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt said.

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