Sport Lions Tour

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Hayes bullish about Furlong's Lions chances

Munster legend John Hayes at the eir Sport lainch in Dublin yesterday. Photo: ©INPHO
Munster legend John Hayes at the eir Sport lainch in Dublin yesterday. Photo: ©INPHO
David Kelly

David Kelly

The sun beams down on a steaming summer day in 2009 and John Hayes hears his phone ringing.

As per usual, he lets it.

This Cappamore Bull is at ease, watchful amongst his equally docile Hereford bulls. The phone rings again.

It is Ian McGeechan.

'Are you fit?' 'I don't know about that... but I'm fresh enough!'

Three weeks later, he was to earn his second Lions cap when he featured in the final Test against South Africa.

"I'd done nothing in about three weeks," he recalls now. "I don't know whether I was supposed to have kept training or not.

"I was at home and I'd done nothing, Absolutely nothing. I was fresh, I don't think I'd lost an awful lot of fitness because I'd played so much that year.


"I think it worked for me. If I were to play another game the week after, I would have been flying. I was only getting going.

"But it's a huge ask for these guys now: they started in July and they're ending in nearly July. You just had the World Cup, and every two years is like this."

These potential fears of player burnout stalk the series.

Hayes feels that Tadhg Furlong, like him a man hewn from farming soil, can continue the fine professional tradition of Irish tightheads locking down the Lions scrum - following on from As with Paul Wallace in 1997 - if he can keep up his energy supplies.

"Absolutely, there will be a new star down there, every Lions tour throws up somebody who needs to take it on," Hayes says of the Leinster star.

""He could be one up front for the Lions. If he plays like he has all year, that could happen for him.

"But it has been a long season for him and it will be a big ask for him to continue doing it into July. That's a long way from here. But he could be the man for the job.

"He has an all-round game, there are no ifs or buts about it. His scrummaging is good, his ball-carrying is good, his breakdown is top class.

"You see him at the breakdown, he is like a back-row. (Australia's) Dean Mumm got sin-binned trying to lift him off a ball in the autumn.

"He is an all-round player. That really marks out a top-class operator: somebody who has everything.

"You're looking at the change of environment, new coaches, new team members and the new challenge of going to New Zealand to try and win.

"Hopefully that can ignite all the Irish boys and get them going again."

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