'Size 15 feet, I don't need to grow more. Hopefully, I've stopped'
England prospect Joe Heyes reckons he has now filled out as best he can and is ready to accelerate his promising career at Leicester. Capped twice last summer at Test level, the recently turned 23-year-old is poised to make his 100th appearance for the Tigers in this Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership game at home to Wasps.
It has been a gradual build so far for the tighthead who has Dan Cole, the 2019 World Cup final sub, keeping him company at Welford Road. Heyes has started in just 19 of his 69 games in the Premiership – six starts in 19 matches this season – but he was more prominent at European level, starting in the Champions Cup five times during the Leicester run to the quarter-finals.
What you see now is what you get with Heyes in terms of his size, the front-rower figuring his girth is perfect for him to get even more exposure as time goes on. “Sometimes if I have a good weekend I put an extra couple of kilos on but no, I tend to stay at this weight and I have stopped growing hopefully,” he told RugbyPass.
“Size 15 feet, I don’t need to grow anymore. Hopefully, I have stopped there and everything like that. Hopefully, I am done now and I can build on this. I’m 122kgs. I’d say I’m happy with that.”
It was September 2018 at Wasps when Heyes made his Leicester debut off the bench in Coventry. At the time, the 2017 Lions pick Cole would have been a regular pick in Eddie Jones’ England matchday squad so what was it like for the then 19-year-old prop to initially get the attention of his way more experienced senior colleague?
“The best thing as a young fella coming in is actually playing with these guys and training with these guys, but it’s hard to speak to people and just automatically get their respect or their attention. It actually took me a couple of games playing with Coley and training with Coley to actually break the ice there. It’s the same anywhere, you have got to do something to earn the respect of your peers and it took time but that is just the way it works really, especially in a professional sport.
“It was good,” he added when that ice had at last broken. “I had finally spoken to Coley. I remember speaking to my dad as well that I struggled to speak to him [Cole] to start off with because I was almost in awe of him but it was like a really good moment, I finally got some information out of him and now I could try and build a relationship with him. I would say we are good mates now and we constantly learn from each other, which is great.”
Heyes doesn’t have to look far for the props that now most inspire him. “I’d say the guys I play with, Coley and Ellis (Genge). They are brilliant. Growing up it was Cian Healy because I just enjoyed watching him play and Logo (Logovi’i Mulipola) because of the way he looked. He was a big scary Samoan and he played for Tigers and that was what I just loved about him really. Now it would be my peers, so Ellis Genge and Coley, they are prime examples of the best props.
“Ellis has done a great job in taking that leadership role and sometimes it comes to you without even expecting it,” continued Heyes. “We are learning and doing stuff like that to be ready if the opportunity comes because there is a lot of opportunity for the young lads in our squad. It’s all very exciting.”
Leicester gunning to win the Premiership title is a very different situation compared to those underwhelming back-to-back eleventh place finishes not so long ago. “Yeah, it taught us what rugby is like and how important it is as a team to stick together. If you are a tightly knit bunch, as we are now, that is how you do good things and it puts further emphasis on being a team player and working together and stuff like that. It [that experience] has been very helpful.”
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