Playing for Leinster a privilege, says Hayden Triggs
Move to province a massive opportunity, insists former Maori All Blacks lock
Lock Hayden Triggs has said it is a privelege to play for Leinster. Photograph: Inpho
Aaron Freeman (seven games), Ed O’Donoghue (eight) and Steven Sykes (four) were just some of those whose stays at the province proved to be brief and unfulfilled, but Leo Cullen was adamant that Kane Douglas was a high-class signing to help fill the void in part left by his own retirement. Alas, it took until the World Cup for Cullen and Leinster (and Michael Cheika) to be vindicated.
Finally free of the disc problem which had hindered him in his sole season with the province after an operation last April, Douglas was excellent until a gruesome knee injury cruelly cut short his World Cup final. By then, Leinster had agreed to release Douglas less than a year into his three-year deal – in part due to familial as well as rugby reasons. Given they were then late into the market place, Hayden Triggs looked a very good signing.
The 33-year-old has bags of experience dating back to the early 2000s, entailing over 100 provincial games with Manawatu, Otago and latterly North Harbour; three seasons in Japan; and over 65 Super Rugby games for the Hurricanes, Highlanders, Chiefs and latterly the Blues.
He has also been a regular for the Maori All Blacks since the 2007 Churchill Cup when playing the full 80 minutes in a 50-22 win over the Ireland As, as he did during the Maoris’ 31-28 win over an Ireland XV in Rotarua during a three-test centenary series.
Triggs arrived battle-hardened, having played for the Maoris in their win over Fiji and loss to the New Zealand Barbarians in July and then North Harbour in the ITM Cup. As you’d expect from an experienced Kiwi, Triggs does all the basics – line-outs, mauls, scrums, tackles and clear-outs effectively – and with his typically high work rate.
Superior skill s
et As to why he has pitched up at Leinster, he sa
id: “Because it is a massive opportunity as a rugby player. People throw the word ‘privilege’ around a bit too much but for me it is a privilege to be here as a historically strong successful club in Europe. For me, at this stage of my career, the opportunity was just too good to turn down.”
Nor is Triggs of the view he has joined an organisation in decline. “I wouldn’t say they’re not the club they used to be. Every club changes every year and who is to say we don’t win the European Cup and then we can come back and say, ‘Look, they are just as good as they used to be’. So we can’t say that just yet.”
He is also reluctant to say that New Zealanders have, in general, a superior skill set, but he does admit that Kiwi kids are more likely to be passing a ball around on the streets and, hence, are “more ball-friendly”. That is why Pat Lam has increased the emphasis on ball skills, to the point where all his Connacht players should buy a ball and bring it with them everywhere, strikes a chord with Triggs.
“I can only speak as a New Zealander, but I know for a fact that if you go to Samoa, like where Pat is from, or Tonga or Fiji, they will pass a shell around just to play touch rugby or there is five or six of them playing three-on-three with just a bunch of socks.”
“In New Zealand, from primary school we are encouraged to play rugby, hockey, basketball, netball, soccer. It is just there. Any bit of free time or bit of sun we are out playing. It is changing a bit these days with PlayStation and stuff like that, but that’s where it all comes from.”
Yet ask him for his first impressions at Leinster and his initial response is: “Driven,” adding, “they know what they want to do. They have the means to do it. Resource-wise there’s nothing they don’t have.
“This year being a World Cup was difficult logistically and personnel-wise, but we have come through that in pretty good shape.”
Thus he is convinced there is better to come this season.
“If you look at the games we are just off a step or two, or a pass, or a skill, from putting teams away. Once we realise that as a playing group and get behind our identity as a group – like, the forwards need to mongrel up a bit more and be comfortable in our own skill – then we will be away.”
The Six Nations will be a testing time again for a province who provided a dozen forwards to Ireland’s World Cup cause. As their only overseas forward, Triggs’ importance will become even more pronounced during that window.