Forceful Kiwi ready to switch allegiances
April 7, 2014
Taranaki-born Force star aiming for Wallabies jersey © Getty Images
Western Force match-winner Jayden Hayward is the latest Kiwi set to switch allegiances and aim for a Wallabies jersey. Taranaki-born Hayward has been a revelation for the Force since crossing the Tasman last year and highlighted his worth with a superb individual try to steal a 32-29 upset over Queensland on Saturday night.
Currently in the second year of a three-year qualifying period as a foreign development player, the converted fullback is keen to remain in Perth and play for Australia after the 2015 World Cup.
"I'd love to stay here," Hayward told AAP. "Everybody wants to play international rugby and if the opportunity arises then I wouldn't say no."
Hayward isn't the only New Zealand fullback revelling in Australia, with Melbourne Rebels import Jason Woodward already in the sights of Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie. Woodward's Rebels teammates Scott Fuglistaller and Toby Smith are also on the radar while Mike Harris has already played 10 Tests thanks to an Aussie-born grandmother.
Neither Hayward nor Woodward would get a look-in past Israel Folau at No.15 but the selection landscape will be different in 2016 when a number of Wallabies head overseas.
Hayward also has versatility, gaining his first 24 Super Rugby caps as a fringe centre in the Highlanders (2009-10) and Hurricanes (2011-12) backlines. It was only a punt by Force coach Michael Foley, who had lured the 27-year-old west, to play him at fullback that his career has flourished.
Foley particularly rates the unflappable back highly for his smarts and reliability under pressure, which see him take the right options from No.15. Hayward has also become somewhat of a lucky charm for the resurrected Force.
His first start at fullback saw him star in a major upset of the Crusaders last season, while his return this year has sparked the Force's attack. Hayward had been overlooked for Luke Morahan for the round one loss to NSW, but their season has been transformed since he was injected in the second half (at 24-0 down) of the second-round loss to the Brumbies.
The fullback and South African import Sias Ebersohn led a late rally in the 27-14 loss, and they haven't looked back since with four straight wins.
"Sias and I came on at halftime and we just said `look mate, let's just have a crack we have nothing to lose'," he said. "As a team, we had to look at each other in the eye and get a few truths because we knew we were better than that."