Hayman gets his Falcons wings

The worst kept secret in New Zealand is out. Carl Hayman, regarded as the best tighthead prop in world rugby, is leaving New Zealand, the Highlanders and Otago to play for the Newcastle Falcons in England.

Hayman on Wednesday confirmed earlier speculation that he would join the post-World Cup trek to the Northern Hemisphere and will join the Falcons until the end of the 2009/10 season.

The 27-year-old front row forward said he would fulfil his obligations to New Zealand rugby and take up his new position in England after the World Cup in France.

“It’s a big step for me to take,” he said.

“But at the same time it’s a big opportunity. Hopefully I will be going to Newcastle as a member of an All Black team that wins the World Cup, which is my immediate goal.

“I’ve had fantastic opportunities already in New Zealand with Otago, the Highlanders and the All Blacks and I’m grateful for the support I’ve received. Going to Newcastle now doesn’t mean I’m totally lost to New Zealand rugby – I’d like to think that I could come back and round out my career here.”

Falcons director of rugby John Fletcher said: “This is a huge statement of intent by the club.

“At the start of the season myself, our chairman Dave Thompson and our forwards coach Peter Walton made a commitment to go out and sign the best tight head in the world, and we’ve done it.

“It has been a lengthy process, but we felt Carl was worth the wait because he is the calibre of player who can take our team forward and help drive us on to where we aspire to be.”

Hayman will be joining former teammate and All Black, Joe McDonnell, at Newcastle, as well as other New Zealanders Loki Crichton, Mark Mayerhofler and Mark Sorenson.

England’s World Cup-winning fly-half Jonny Wilkinson and former Australian fullback Matt Burke also play for Newcastle.

Hayman said Dunedin and Otago will always remain home and he would like to play again for Otago sometime in the future.

“It’s a fantastic province to be in and I know I’ll miss being part of the Otago setup. Perhaps I’ll be able to rejoin it some day.”

Having completed the deal Fletcher revealed that Falcons and All Black prop Joe McDonnell had been instrumental in putting Newcastle’s case forward to the in-demand Hayman, who chose Kingston Park over a number of other top European clubs.

“Joe knows Carl very well and was able to tell us not just about his rugby, but about his character and what he will bring to the squad off the field,” he said.

“Carl was able to get the inside track from Joe about the club, and the message from day one was that he really bought in to the talent and ambition we have here at Kingston Park.

“This is very much a progressive club, and as well as forming an integral part of our pack he will be vital in helping develop our talented crop of English props including David Wilson, Micky Ward, Jon Golding and Johnny Williams. Joe has already made great strides in that regard along with our coaching team, but Carl will undoubtedly add to that as we look to bring on our own players.”

Otago Rugby Union (ORU) chief executive, Russell Gray, said Hayman has given great service to the province and he goes with the union’s blessing and best wishes.

“He knows he can come back anytime,” he said.

Hayman has played 68 games for Otago, 78 for the Highlanders and 36 matches for the All Blacks, 35 of them tests.

When he made his New Zealand debut in 2001, he became the 1000th All Black.

Earlier in the week the ORU denied newspaper reports that it was about to sell off its most prized asset, Hayman, to English Premier Division outfit, the Falcons.

The union reacted to weekend reports which claimed that Hayman, who is contracted to the ORU but is nearing the end of his New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) deal, will become one of the highest-paid players in the world

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