Former All Black Carl Hayman has agreed to come out of retirement to play in the French Federale 3 – the fifth, and very firmly amateur, tier of French rugby.
Hayman, who joined Top 14 outfit Section Paloise as forwards coach at the start of the 2016/17 season after five successful seasons with the Galacticos of Toulon, has will pull on his boots again for Bizanos, a small club in the suburbs of his hometown city of Pau in southwest France, according to local newspaper La République des Pyrénées.
The 37-year-old 45-cap prop was persuaded out of retirement by Pau’s video analyst, Paddy Sullivan, who plays in midfield for the small Béarnese club. While their respective day jobs mean neither will be always available for selection, they hope to play alongside each other as regularly as their commitments with Section Paloise allow.
One surprise move was by Bizanos in Fed 3, they've picked up a certain Carl Hayman, out of retirement! Good luck to those looseheads!
— Paul Eddison (@pauleddison) August 28, 2017
Bizanos’ co-manager Michel Vergé told La République that the club’s players were delighted to welcome Hayman to a pre-season training session at Stade Municipal Bizanos. “You had to see him in the middle of our guys, always with a big smile on his face, happy to be there. He’s a fantastic guy, with phenomenal humility,” he said.
Bizanos are due to kick off their 2017/18 season with a derby match at nearby Riscle on Sunday, September 17. Both Hayman and Sullivan may be available for selection, as Pau are due to entertain Castres Olympique at the freshly refurbished Stade du Hameau the day before.
Hayman is not the first former All Black to turn out for a French amateur side in recent years. In early 2016, scrum-half Piri Weepu – whose debut at the weekend for New Zealand Heartland Championship side Wairarapa Bush ended abruptly when he was helped from the field, after suffering an apparent asthma attack – joined sixth tier outfit Saint-Sulpice-sur-Tarn for a brief spell after his contract at Top 14 side Oyonnax was abruptly terminated. Weepu’s stint at Saint Sulpice was limited to training ground outings as red tape tied up his registration until the end of the season.