John Hayes still has role for play for Ireland, says Declan Kidney
Ireland coach Declan Kidney has insisted that the absence of John Hayes from their clash with South Africa on Saturday does not represent the end of the prop's Test career.
Hayes, the winner of 102 caps, has been omitted from an Ireland squad on the strength of selection for the first time since making his Test debut over a decade ago. His Munster colleague Tony Buckley has been preferred as starting tighthead prop with Tom Court's versatility winning the Ulsterman a spot on the bench.
Kidney, however, insists Hayes still has a role to play with Ireland.
"Not at all is it the end for John, definitely not," said Kidney. "It hasn't been easy to leave guys out but that's my job. There are guys who will continue to give Ireland great service over the next 12 months.
"Tom Court has been playing 80 minutes recently and the advantage for him is that he's the one prop who has had time on both sides of the scrum. In a 22-man squad you have to look at that tactically.
"Tony took his break during the summer tour very well. He's backed that up with a few good performances since. John was unfortunate because he fell ill at the start of the tour and didn't get his energy back, so didn't get a go at it."
Finding a replacement for the 37 year-old Hayes has been one of the most pressing issues for Ireland, who have struggled for depth at prop. The giant Buckley has long been viewed as his successor but has only recently blossomed after making his Test debut in 2007 as a substitute.
At 30 he is no rookie in terms of age, but Kidney insists he has shown patience to get the game time needed to press his claim.
"Now it's Tony's opportunity and that's because of the progress he's made in his career," said Kidney He's now played against Australia and New Zealand and will face South Africa on Saturday. Every player wants to pit themselves against the best and hopefully Tony will take his opportunity again.
"All players need a run of games and no more so than props. Tony got a string of games at the Churchill Cup in 2008 and 2009. For a big man like him motoring around a pitch was exactly what he needed. He was getting better and better with each game.
"He got more game time last year and finished strongly last season. You could call him a late bloomer but John hasn't exactly made it easy for him."