Jamie Heaslip
Heaslip has the chance to thrill at the World Cup.Getty Images

Of the 31-man squads named by the 20 nations competing in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, there are few more competitive positions than in the Ireland backrow. Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, Chris Henry, Jordi Murphy and Tommy O'Donnell are all scrapping to start the Six Nations champions' four pool matches in an attempt to force their way in for the all-important knock-out phase where greater challenges await.

It is therefore testament to the talent and importance of Jamie Heaslip, the Leinster number eight who is half-giant gladiator and half-rampaging bull, that he is not even part of the conversation. Behind captain Paul O'Connell and Johnny Sexton, Heaslip is first on Joe Schmidt team sheet and a credible contender to be regarded as among the best the northern hemisphere has to offer.

In 2013, Heaslip arrived in Australia with the British and Irish Lions as a three-time European Cup winner and a Grand Slam champion with Ireland and seemingly destined for a role in the back row of Warren Gatland's side. After appearances in the first two Tests, Heaslip was overlooked for the decider (his omission overshadowed by the dropping of Brian O'Driscoll) and he missed the series clinching win in Sydney, describing himself as the "third wheel" in the post-game celebrations.

In the spring, Heaslip was again a peripheral figure as Ireland retained the Six Nations championship, suffering a broken vertebra in the win over France and not featuring again for another month by which time his side's grip on the title had become vice like after victory over England.

The 31-year-old is unlikely to play such a trivial role in Ireland's route to World Cup glory, though. Heaslip's movement off the base of the scrum makes him one of the most dangerous back-row forwards in world rugby, with a burst of pace and strength that will represent a real weapon should Ireland start to dictate at the set-piece.

So once again he might not enter a major tournament as the standout player, nor the headline-grabber of a team destined for their best ever finish at a World Cup, but come the twilight of the tournament, Heaslip will have influenced Ireland's surge to the twilight of the tournament. The bridesmaid may finally become the bride.