I never believed I would make century, says Hayes
Munster's John Hayes, who will become Irish rugby’s first centurion this weekend when he wins his 100th cap, has admitted that he never envisaged himself reaching this remarkable milestone.
The tight head prop who celebrated, if that be the word, his 36th birthday in November past, has answered Ireland’s call throughout the past decade.
Asked about the first of those caps he said: “Clearly I can remember it alright because it was a very exciting day. There was so many of us — five of us all in together — so I think that made it extra special.
“You never think 100.
“When you get one, you want two. I don't know what it is, I was old enough when I started, I suppose.”
He went on: “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.”
Speaking about playing in the World Cup in 2011, he said: “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 96.
“It would be nice to finish there because it’s a great country that helped me along the way.”
The Munster tight head, a latecomer to rugby who continues to work on the family farm near Limerick, has been criticised at times for his scrummaging.
He said: “The criticism never hurt me. People are entitled to their opinion. Scrummaging has been part of my game that I've always worked hard on.”
Explaining his career route he continued: “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.”
When he runs out against England at Twickenham on Saturday it will be his 51st successive Six Nations start, a remarkable record for a tight head, many of whose 99 appearances have seen him go the full 80 minutes.
“My first cap was a huge honour and there have been lots of great one-off victories, but the Grand Slam was the best,” he revealed