All Black 'Rock' out to Put the Squeeze on Scots; KIWI KINGS: New Zealand Coach Henry (Right) with Skipper McCaw

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), September 23, 2007 | Go to article overview

All Black 'Rock' out to Put the Squeeze on Scots; KIWI KINGS: New Zealand Coach Henry (Right) with Skipper McCaw


Byline: DAVID BARNES

IT IS hard not to feel fretful for Alasdair Dickinson ahead of hisScotland debut against the All Blacks this afternoon. The 24-year-old looseheadprop has the unenviable task of packing down against the massive, bearded frameof Carl Hayman - almost certainly the best tighthead in world rugby at themoment.

It is a daunting task. The All Blacks side is sprinkled with world-classtalent, from the flash and dazzle of Doug Howlett and Sitiveni Sivivatu on thewing to the all-round brilliance of Dan Carter at standoff and the fearlessenergy of Richie McCaw at openside flanker.

But it has only been since Hayman's emergence as a rock capable of locking outthe New Zealand scrum that the All Blacks have really started demonstrating thesort of form which has made them such an irresistible force in recent years.

The job of a tighthead prop is to soak up all the pressure the opposition canhand out in the scrum and provide a platform for the Flash Harrys behind toattack. Nobody does it better than Hayman.

His value in this department was highlighted earlier this year when he joinedGuinness Premiership club Newcastle Falcons on a three-year contract which isexpected to earn him a cool [pounds sterling]330,000 a season.

This sort of money is highly unusual for any rugby player - for a prop forward,it is unheard of.

But that is another matter. First of all, he is intent on helping New Zealandscratch their 20-year itch.

The All Blacks have not won the World Cup since the inaugural tournament in1987 and, in a country where rugby is almost a religion, this failing cuts deepinto the national psyche.

'Plenty of people remind us about that,' said Hayman.

'It is what it is.Unfortunately,teams in the past haven't been able to getacross the line, so hopefully we can make that different.

'I remember watching both the 1995 and 1999 tournaments.

'In '99, I think I went to bed at halftime of the semi-final thinking that wewere in the Final.It was a bit of a shock when I woke up in the morning.

'In '95, I got up in the middle of the night to watch the Final with my family.It was pretty disappointing, so you definitely know how the rest of the countryfeels when things don't go to plan.

'In 2003,I had been involved in squads all year, so I was pretty supportive ofthe squad. I felt sorry for the guys because it came down to a one-off gamethat just didn't go their way.' Given these previous failings, the current AllBlacks squad could be forgiven for taking this year's tournament too seriously- but the reality of the situation is that the attractive brand of rugby theyhave championed on the park is reflected by a laidback and untroubledatmosphere within the camp.

At various press conferences in the last two weeks, a burly character in an AllBlacks tracksuit with a stocking over his head has burst into the room and thenrun off like a clumsy cat burglar.

His trademark beard might not have been visible, but the body shape left littledoubt that this masked marauder was in fact Hayman, who has a growingreputation in the squad as a prankster. …

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