In the week of the second-last championship game of the season John Hayes has no difficulty switching his focus away from the high of the win over England, his thoughts firmly on the Italians
In the week of the second-last RBS Six Nations championship game of the season, John Hayes has no difficulty switching his focus away from the high of the win over England, his thoughts now firmly fixed on the ‘hardy boys’ of Italy.
Looking back at that game however, few people outside of the Irish camp, gave Ireland much chance of beating England in their own back yard.
“When you go play a side like England you have to believe you can win otherwise you’ve no business going out on the field. We had to be positive going out and believe we could win. We had to have a game plan and a process in place to help us to win. We had to look at their game and see how we could break them down. Luckily enough things worked out on the day and we won.
The early lead and then the try was the very same pattern as in the game against France. We were doing ok in Paris, then made two mistakes in the second half and let them in for two tries.
“It was the same against England. We were winning six nil and well in the game and then one bit of a slip up and they scored a try. That shows what teams like that can do. Basically we knew we couldn’t drop our heads, we were still only a point behind. It was really a case of being back to square one. Just start again, just stay in the game and that’s what we did.
“I think it was important at that stage we didn’t let them get a second. At this level most of the top teams will score against you. T’would be very rare to go out and play against England and them not score at all, the same as France. There’s no-one going to hold either of them to nil. So when it happens you can’t let it be the end of the world. Just start again, get back down the other half.
“The lineout went great. We got a good start, won the very first one I think. That was down to the work the boys had done during the week, Paulie especially and Mal and Simon. They had looked at the videos and saw where they could maybe get after the English and their hard work paid off.
Perhaps the cleanest catch of the day was taken uncontested by one John Hayes off a Steve Thompson throw, the memory brings a hearty laugh from Hayes.
Yeh, I got a bit of a surprise allright. I ended up at the back on the defensive lineout. Nine out of ten will be caught but there’s always the chance that one will bobble over the top. It fell into my hands. But it was so close to the line they had cover straight there. There wasn’t a whole lot of space really”.
Six points clear going into the closing stages left supporters chewing their nails and the lads on the field defending grimly. Buy Hayes and Co were intent on holding the fort.
We knew it would go right down to the wire. All we could do was try and hold our shape, put bodies on the line. There was never really a stage in the game when we felt sure of victory. We were only six in front. Right down to the very last minute we were only six points ahead and yer man put the chip kick in. There was a chase. If one of them had got a hand to that, it was a try. T’was right under the posts, it would’ve been converted. When you’re not over a score clear you can’t ever really relax, they could break out from anywhere with Jason Robinson or someone like that and get a try so you can’t by any stretch of the imagination relax when it’s that close.
Afterwards in the dressing room ?
It was a mixture of delight and exhaustion. It was a while later, an hour or two later, when fellas had got food and drink back into em, as in fluids like, not drink drink, that fellas started to pick up and there was good ould craic.
Woodward came into the dressing-room to say well done. He was very gracious, said the best team won on the day, he was grand. It was the same with the players later that night. They took their beating well, no ill-feeling at all. I think they realize who they are now. That they’re world champions and that they have to act that way. And they really did. They are the world champions, they got beaten and they accepted it. They showed true champion quality. No sour grapes or anything like that.
“We went for some food (finger food) in Twickenham, (stadium), met up with family and friends there. Then back to the hotel to change and back then into London for the reception that evening. By the time the whole lot was finished, the formal part, it must have been half twelve or more. Because of the late kick-off the whole thing was pushed back.
And what did John Hayes do then ?
John Hayes went back to the team hotel and went to bed to watch the first Formula One Grand Prix of the season from Melbourne. Coverage started at two o’clock and I watched it till the end, about five. Up again then at half seven to be on the bus for eight.
With the big one’ now successfully out of the way is it difficult to build up again for the remaining games ?
No, no problem at all. It was a great week last week, Played the game, then there was no match last weekend. But that week was what it was. Now this week we’re back together. we just build it up again to another international. An international is an international at this stage of the Six Nations and you just have to focus and concentrate on that. Our preparation was no different from what we did for the English game.
Italy are hardy boys. They like the physical stuff. They said at the start they’d targeted a home win and an away win. They have their home win and their tails up after that win over the Scots. So now they’re going for the away one. They’ll have plenty of belief in themselves so we’ll just have to be on our game for Saturday.
” It’s going to be full-on, it’s going to be hard but as I’ve said before, there are no easy games at this level.