The greatest tightheads of all time: Carl Hayman
Carl Hayman defied the conventional qualities of a tighthead, the New Zealand front-rower was one of the greatest to play the game
Major teams: Otago, Highlanders, Newcastle, Toulon
Country: New Zealand
Test span: 2001-07
Test caps: 45 (37 starts)
Test points: 10 (2T)
Carl Hayman made his Test debut from the bench against Samoa at North Harbour in June 2001, the same game that saw back-rower Marty Holah and prop Mark Ranby open their accounts.
By virtue of alphabetical order, Hayman became the 1,000th All Black in history. In that regard, his legacy was secure from the beginning.
But while the hulking specimen from Opunake would only win 44 further caps, his staggering power would smash the mould and live long in the memory of adoring fans.
Taller than the stereotypical tighthead at a relatively towering 6ft 4in, Hayman started out as a lock and a No 8. His Super Rugby form for the Highlanders didn’t translate into a consistent run of international appearances until Graham Henry took the All Blacks reins in 2004.
From Henry’s first assignment – a comprehensive 2-0 series win over world champions England – Hayman was entrenched in the No 3 jersey. He annihilated the French that November and, also a hugely effective lifter in the lineout, delivered a set-piece platform ranging between rock-solid and devastating.
Seismic gym sessions encompassing ludicrous weights created a mystique of their own and on-field success followed. Despite a toe infection that ruled him out of the final two clashes of the Test series, Hayman beat the British & Irish Lions twice in 2005 – once for New Zealand Maori and again under Henry in Christchurch.
The next year he was a mainstay of a Tri-Nations triumph but a shock quarter-final defeat to France derailed the 2007 World Cup mission. At the age of 27, Hayman had represented the All Blacks for the final time.
Though the NZRU tried a host of measures to keep him – CEO Steve Tew was forced to deny he had offered Hayman a dairy farm in Taranaki – he left for three lucrative seasons in the Premiership with Newcastle before joining Mourad Boudjellal at Toulon in 2010.
Signing off with three consecutive European titles, he fully vindicated rival tighthead Greg Somerville’s assertion that “if he’d have stayed, he’d have played a helluva lot more Tests”.