England v Ireland, Twickenham, February 27
Hayes plays down historic landmark
February 24, 2010
Ireland prop John Hayes will win his 100th Test cap against England at Twickenham on Saturday © PA Photos
Prop John Hayes will claim his 100th Ireland cap against England on Saturday and remains hungry for international recognition with his eyes set on the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The 36-year-old British & Irish Lions international, who currently boasts a total 101 Test caps thanks to his two appearances for the elite tourists, made a rare appearance in front of the media after being named in the side for the Twickenham clash and stated his desire to continue playing until the next World Cup.
A two-year stint in New Zealand accelerated his development early in his career and the indomitable 36-year-old appreciates the symmetry of finishing his Test career there. "The obvious high was last year winning the Grand Slam," he said. "My first cap was a huge honour and there have been lots of great one-off victories, but the Grand Slam was the best. I feel as good as I've ever done. If I stay injury-free I don't see why I shouldn't continue playing.
"I've been lucky with injury when I look around and see some of my team-mates. There's no secret, just luck. It might be that I came to rugby late. It would be nice to play in New Zealand again because I have a lot of friends down there. I spent two seasons there in 1995 and 1996. It would be nice to finish there because it's a great country that helped me along the way."
Hayes holds cult status among Ireland fans who have dubbed him 'The Bull', but he remains something of an enigma thanks to his reluctance to step into the spotlight. For a tight-head to make 100 Test appearances is an astonishing achievement, but Hayes has his critics who blame him for all Ireland's ills at the scrum, often viewed as the team's Achilles heel. But the Munster front row, who continues to work on the family farm in Cappamore in Limerick, has always retained a balanced outlook on his life and rugby.
"The criticism never hurt me. People are entitled to their opinion," he said. "Scrummaging has been part of my game that I've always worked hard on. I worked for a few years before I went professional. Since then I've always used a down day to do as much as I can at home. I like to get out and get away from it all. I've always enjoyed that."
Hayes made his debut in 2000 alongside four other new caps and will be playing his 51st successive Six Nations match on Saturday, all as a starter. His durability and success at staying injury-free have added to the legend, yet long-term Munster and Ireland team-mate Donncha O'Callaghan insists he will be a reluctant Test centurion.
"When (head coach) Declan Kidney announced John's selection he made bit of a fuss. It killed John, who just went red," said O'Callaghan. "A fuss for John is people talking about it for two seconds. There was no presentation, he wouldn't put up with that.
"The rest of us would be looking forward to a 100th cap but John would rather get off the pitch, get home and milk his cows. Everyone else would enjoy this week but John can't wait until it's over. It's an incredible achievement that can be taken for granted when there are guys like Ronan O'Gara and Brian O'Driscoll clipping his heels. John is a real nice fella, as solid as a rock. He'd never lie."