The Benetton and Italy back talks sweeping, sparkies and swimming with sharks

Downtime with… Italy full-back Jayden Hayward

What did you make of Italy when you first moved over?

It’s a beautiful setting in Treviso and obviously the lifestyle’s very good, the food and wine. When I first came over here I didn’t know what to expect because back in New Zealand I didn’t know Italy played rugby, as narrow-minded as it sounds. It wasn’t until I started doing my research, looking into it, that I saw they’re a proud rugby nation.

With the cuisine, is it hard staying in decent nick?

I’m pretty lucky in that department – I can pretty much eat what I want and it doesn’t go anywhere. I’ve got a fast metabolism. My wife is a lovely cook and she keeps me in shape.

Who is your funniest team-mate?

The Honey Badger, Nick Cummins. I played with him at the Force in Australia and it was just the conversations you’d have with him. They’re just not your normal conversations, like, you’d be talking about space and what’s out there. You just have to look at him and you laugh.

Italy full-back Jayden Hayward

Funny man: Former Wallaby wing Nick Cummins (Getty Images)

Any pranks you can share?

At the World Cup there were a lot of pranks. From going into people’s rooms and bed flipping, taking everything out of their bags, to putting rotten food underneath the pillows. You just have to be very, very careful about who your roomie is and try not to leave your doors open.

How about nicknames?

I’ve had a couple of nicknames. In New Zealand I had Ball Bags. Not because I’ve got a big one but it was just a name that stuck with everyone back home in club rugby. And then when I went to the Force I had Hundy. They called me that because they reckoned that I wasn’t 100% all there! My name, Jayden, is pretty hard to say for Italians so they just call me Jay here.

If your house was on fire and everyone was okay, what one item would you save?

I would save my wedding album. Just because I wouldn’t be able to replace the photos.

If you could be any team-mate, who would you be?

Braam Steyn, because he’s got a good body and he plays in the back row. I wouldn’t want to be in the tight five, that would be horrendous.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

My wife reckons I have an obsession with vacuuming the house! It’s not at three in the morning, but I have one of those electric vacuum cleaners and if I see a bit of dirt on the floor then I have to vacuum it up.

I also have an internet addiction for looking at cars, motorbikes or houses online. I have to be looking at something!

What angers you?

Stealing winds me up. Taking personal stuff really gets me.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

It would be sweeping the floors. In New Zealand I worked at a furniture place and after school, for an hour and a half, I used to go there to sweep the floors. Maybe that’s where my obsession with cleaning dirt came from.

If you could have any three dream dinner party guests, who would you choose?

There’s no one like Michael Jackson. He was a very talented singer and an artist. I’d have Bob Marley for the same reason. And the third would be Bear Grylls. I’d pick his brains and figure out how to survive if I ever got isolated in the world.

Italy full-back Jayden Hayward

Dinner guest? TV adventurer Bear Grylls (Getty Images)

What superpower would you like?

To be able to look young forever. When you get older, everything sags and you get wrinkles, so that’d be a good one.

What do you do to relax?

Watch TV, Netflix, but also go to the park and play with my son. On holidays I just want a sunny destination to enjoy family time.

Do you have any phobias?

Sharks. I actually went cage diving in South Africa. I was always scared but once I’d done that I realised I was a lot more scared of them than I’d thought. Seeing them move so effortlessly in the water, how big they are, then seeing them face to face…

What would you like to achieve outside rugby?

I’m a qualified electrician, so after rugby I’d like to get back into that side of stuff. I left home at almost 21. I’m 33 so by the time I go back home it will have been 13-14 years. I’d like to be successful with that and life after rugby.

More players should learn trades. It’s easier to do it straight after school if you can, but people should look into it. With something to fall back on, hopefully they will be more successful later in life.

This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Rugby World magazine.

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