John Hayes is set to make rugby history at Twickenham on Saturday as the first Irishman to win 100 caps for his country, and captain Brian O’Driscoll will lead the applause when he does.
O’Driscoll is just two games away from the magical ton himself, but he fully expects the man known fondly as The Bull to pip him to the honor.
When he does, his captain will the first to applaud a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact that Hayes has played all 100 games at tight head prop, and has featured in each of the last 52 Six Nations matches played by his country.
“Knowing John he probably won’t read anything about himself before or after Saturday, and even if he does he will be embarrassed by it,” explained Ireland’s Grand Slam leader O’Driscoll.
“It would embarrass him to know that we are even talking about him but John Hayes is a great character, the type of guy you would want on your team week in and week out.
“There is nothing blasé about him, he just rolls his sleeves up and he gets on with his work. He is just very understated and a great guy to have in your squad.”
Hayes, substituted as a head injury caught up with him the defeat to France two weeks ago, won’t be taking anything for granted with regards to the 100th cap.
Ever since he first appeared for Ireland against Scotland in February 2000, he has been low key.
“To get 100 caps in that one position would be phenomenal and a great, great thing,” added O’Driscoll.
“But John would be the first to say let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
“That said obviously we would be hopeful that he has at least one more game in him! I will be delighted for him when he does get there.
“He has been fantastic for us over those 10 years, he is the consummate professional and people don’t realize all the extra work he does lifting bales of hay and what not.”
A quiet and reserved man himself, Ireland coach Declan Kidney provided an almost Hayes-esque answer when asked to pay his own tribute to the man who has soldiered successfully for him with Munster and now with Ireland.
“Em -- that’s probably the answer John would like me too give!” joked Kidney with a smile on his face.
“I don’t know. I am not sure what to say because he is like that. He is a very private man but he enjoys his rugby. He loves it.
“He can just turn out wearing a t-shirt and shorts when everyone else is wearing tracksuits and tops. He is just a man’s man.”
The fact that Hayes has won all 99 of his caps to date at tight-head prop has staggered Kidney in a game where the demands on the top players are getting more grueling by the season.
“John Hayes is in probably the toughest position going so to get to 99 caps in one position is a huge testimony to the way the guy looks after himself,” added Kidney.
“It is not just about turning up for the game with him, it is the whole lifestyle. He would be a good example to young pros coming through as to what you can achieve if you look after yourself but at the same time he does enjoy it. I know that.”
Leinster and Ireland centre Gordon D’Arcy is just as excited for Hayes and said, “To win 51 Six Nations caps in the same position never mind a hundred Irish caps is just phenomenal.
“He’s a quiet man but a man happy with his lot and he works exceptionally hard to keep his body in tick.”
Like D’Arcy, Leinster and Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip finds the concept of 100 international caps overwhelming.
“I think France was John’s 51st consecutive Six Nations game and we were there going, ‘How do you do that?’ It’s over 10 years and I cannot fathom it,” Heaslip said.
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