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'Bull Calf' says there's added spice in taking on champs

IT was always thus. The 'Bull' Hayes unceremoniously made a nationwide and, eventually, a worldwide reputation out of grinding front rows into the dirt, the sheer roundhouse presence of his 19 stones frame repelling loose-head props the world over.

HIS lineout lifts were a legendary combination of 'Rolex' timing and farm-made natural strength as men like Paul O'Connell were shot into the air like bullets from a gun.

This 'Little John' made others look good. That was his gift to them. It was also good enough to make a hefty 212 appearances for his beloved Munster and a Herculean 105 Ireland caps.

The man mountain cast a long shadow. But, the little brother didn't seem to mind too much. He had his own journey to make.

Thirty-two years old, Tom 'The Bull Calf' Hayes also started out at Bruff and, from there, travelled up to Shannon. He didn't move to another hemisphere - John made the transition from lock to prop on a sojourn to the Marist club in New Zealand - to make known his honesty and value in the game.

The 'Bull Calf' never played for Munster. It was a province stocked with international locks O'Connell, Donncha O'Callaghan and Mick O'Driscoll. There was not enough room at that round table.

Hayes quietly bade farewell to Shannon and the province, mounting the steps of a plane on the way to unremarkable Plymouth in The Championship in England. As they still say on the building sites, 'it was a start'.



Durable

From there, he moved on to Exeter Chiefs in the summer of 2008. Like his brother John, he is durable beyond reason, playing 94 straight matches for the club right up to the first week of October last.

"As an Irishman, there is maybe a little bit of added spice to the fixture for me, but it is all about the club and the squad really, and we want to try and get as much out of the game as we possibly can," said Hayes, currently Exeter's captain.

Certainly, the fact that Munster could benefit from Exeter's eclipse of Leinster is of secondary importance to this man from Limerick.

His loyalty has long been to the club on the south coast of England.

"It is a going to be a huge occasion for us. They have won the Heineken Cup in the last two seasons, and they are not in as strong a position in the group as I think they would have liked to have been.

"They have obviously got a lot of quality about them, so they are not going to come to Sandy Park just to make up numbers.

"They are going to be scrapping for what they can, and it is up to us to stand up to that really and try to end our European season on a high."

Like his brother before him, Tom Hayes stands between Leinster and what they want. He will do all he can to get in their way.

And if that should assist Munster in the process? All the better.