Chiefs dangerman Hayes deserves Ireland call, insists old mate Reddan
HEINEKEN Cup time used to be a source of frustration for Eoin Reddan and Tom Hayes. The duo were back-ups at Munster in the early days of their careers, both involved in the smaller games before having to make way for the big hitters when the glitz of European action rolled around.
Eventually they packed up and headed for England and, on Saturday, they will have a reunion of sorts at the RDS as they enter the competition as integral parts of their current teams.
For Reddan, the competition has been kind -- he has three winner's medals. Hayes has had to be patient, before his debut finally comes this weekend.
Limerick man Reddan knows that what the Exeter Chiefs will be feeling when they take on Leinster will be hard to replicate in a home dressing-room full of European caps and medals.
"It'll be tough to meet the level of the excitement they're going to have," Reddan said. "It's their first game ever in the Heineken Cup and we all remember our first games in the Heineken Cup -- they're special. So playing against 15 guys going through that at the weekend, it'll be a good challenge for us."
The scrum-half got the game time he needed to develop at Wasps, where he won this competition in 2007 before returning to Ireland two years later to join a Leinster set-up that had just won their first European Cup. He would play a key role in their second and third triumphs.
For second-row Hayes (32), six months older than Reddan, it has been a long, slow journey to the continent's top competition. Having joined Championship side Plymouth Albion from Shannon, he made his name at Exeter, who were on an odyssey that would lead them to the top flight and into Europe.
Reddan always knew his old mate had it in him and believes Munster missed out when they didn't nail him down.
"I think he was a big loss to Munster because I think he would have come through and played excellently," Reddan said.
"He's got great skills, he's got a good work rate, good fitness, he's tough -- everything you want from a second-row. I think he was a loss to Irish rugby, he's been a bit under the radar because of the division he was playing in but he's come straight up to the Premiership last year and kept performing."
The obvious comparison is with Hayes' famous sibling John, and Reddan says they share similar characteristics. And while the younger brother has never played for his country like the 105-times capped Bull, Reddan says he is unfortunate not to have been involved.
"They're both good lads. Whether Tom is a bit more outspoken or not, they both have the same characteristics, both honest people on and off the pitch.
"I think Tom's proven over the years, particularly last year in the Premiership, that he could play at international level. He'll have a big input at the weekend."
With an injury crisis going on all around him, Reddan was delighted to come through Saturday's win over Munster unscathed and in form. The 31-year-old looked back to his excellent best at the Aviva Stadium despite suffering a quad injury that kept him out against Connacht the previous weekend.
"It is frustrating when you put you all the work in during pre-season, play the first game and then you're pulled up," he said. "It's the first game I've missed at Leinster through injury so I can't complain."