Highlanders

Hayman’s new life-in-waiting

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Newcastle Falcons prop Joe McDonnell hailed the addition of fellow All Black front rower Carl Hayman at Newcastle on Wednesday, anticipating that Newcastle’s atmosphere and surrounds would help the world number one tighthead bloom further.

Former Highlanders team-mate McDonnell had played the unlikely role of Geordie ambassador to Hayman with a number of other top European clubs in hot pursuit.

“I’ve known Carl since about 1998 when we were together at Otago, and he’s really blossomed from that time to where he is now in the game,” said McDonnell.

“He is a strong player and a good person with the right values, so everyone is looking forward to his arrival after the World Cup.

“They say props are late bloomers and Carl will have his 28th birthday just a few days before he comes to Newcastle, so from that side of things the hope is that we get his best years here at the Falcons.”

Despite being widely regarded as the best prop forward in the world, McDonnell insisted Hayman will fit seamlessly in to life at Kingston Park when he arrives on December 1.

“He’s a mate of mine so obviously we’ve been speaking over the last few months while he has been making his mind up, and there’s been a fair bit of pressure on him with such a big decision to make.

“The things we’ve spoken about have been the things that will affect him when he comes over here, like the training, the quality of the squad, life in Newcastle and basically what it’s like being a player for the Falcons.

“He hasn’t been to Newcastle before so he wanted to know what the area is like, and having spent six months here already myself I just gave him an honest picture.

“I’ve loved my time here, the area is beautiful and the Geordie people are really friendly. I’ve found the culture at Kingston Park to be a very ambitious and enjoyable one, and I think that was a factor in Carl coming here with a lot of other teams also keen to sign him.

“They say the people get more welcoming in England the further north you get, and I’ve certainly found that to be the case.

Hayman will not struggle to adapt as some who hail from the south have done, with the North-East of England offering plenty of what he is used to in Otago for free time activity.

“You have to have things to do outside of rugby, and the north-east will be right up Carl’s street because there’s a lot of countryside all around for him to get in to his fishing, hunting and all of that sort of stuff,” continued McDonnell.

“A lot of the boys share similar interests, and coming from the deep south in Dunedin I think Newcastle is the best place he could have come to in England.

Asked what Hayman will bring to the side, countryman McDonnell said: “Carl is a very powerful scrummager, but that side of the game is really a team effort and you are only as good as the guys around you.

“We’re lucky at Newcastle to have a lot of quality in that area, especially on the tight head side where we have Micky Ward and David Wilson who are both really strong players.

“There are also very good locks in behind that front row, so who knows, he could be even more powerful in the Premiership than he is back home.

“He isn’t the sort of guy who will come here and think he can walk straight in to the team. He has big shoes to fill with Micky Ward and Davey Wilson who are both excellent players at tight head, so it just adds even more competition which can only be good for the club and all the players involved.

“Any one of those three could start and we would still have a fantastic tight head, so that’s how we’re looking at it. The season is a long one over here, so that sort of strength in depth is becoming more important than ever.

“He is the form tight head in world rugby at the moment, so you have to take your hat off to the club for going out and getting him when there was a lot of competition out there trying to do the same.

“He will be great for us because not only is he a fantastic player, but he has a lot of integrity and will fit in to the sort of team ethos that we have here at the Falcons.”

 

365 Digital

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