Haywood sets sights on Bristol after impressive Saints milestone

Mike Haywood (right) hit 150 Saints appearances last Sunday (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Mike Haywood (right) hit 150 Saints appearances last Sunday (picture: Sharon Lucey)

While much of the focus was on Stephen Myler’s big milestone, there was also another impressive achievement at Gloucester last Sunday.

Myler, at 32, hit 300 appearances in Saints colours, but a younger club stalwart was also reaching a significant total.

At the age of just 25, Mike Haywood played for the 150th time for the club at which he came though the Academy.

The hooker’s ability and decication to the cause isn’t often mentioned outside the corridors of Franklin’s Gardens, but there is no doubt that he deserves immense credit.

After all, he was the one who started both final successes in 2014, helping Saints to win their first Premiership title as well as the Challenge Cup.

And he has continued to step up whenever called upon, impressing so much last season that he earned a place in the Premiership’s team of the season.

Despite that, he remains a down-to-earth lad who prefers playing to plaudits and who quickly shrugged off last Sunday’s hugely impressive achievement.

“For me, I don’t really look at caps, it’s just another thing that comes with rugby,” Haywood said. “It’s all about playing and it was massive to get the win at Gloucester.

“It’s another stepping stone to get back into that top-four place and it’s another massive game against Bristol this weekend.

“We targeted these three games leading into Europe. We thought they were winnable but now we’ve seen Bristol have had four on the bounce and it’s going to be a tough game.

“If we win against Bristol and Leicester lose away to Wasps (on Sunday) we could be up to fifth, so for us, being fifth after such a bad start would be pretty good.

“It would mean we could kick on from there.”

Haywood played the full 80 minutes at Gloucester, as he has done in many matches during the past few years.

With England captain Dylan Hartley having only played nine times during 2016, Haywood has continued to ensure Saints have not suffered.

And when asked whether the amount of game time he has had at such a young age has made him feel old, he laughed and said: “I’m 25 but my body feels old.

“It’s a good achievement to hit 150, but hopefully it doesn’t stop there.

“I want to keep pushing on and look to the future.”

The immediate future is a game against rapidly improving Bristol at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

Saints beat the Premiership’s bottom side 32-10 at Ashton Gate back in September, with Haywood scoring the crucial bonus-point try a minute from time.

And he is now looking forward to this weekend’s reunion with the west country outfit.

“Bristol have come on a lot,” Haywood said.

“They’re four from four now and they’re fighting in that relegation battle. You can see it when they play.

“They’re a lot more up for their games, a lot more physical so it’s going to be a huge challenge for us.

“Hopefully we can just get back up that table to where we should be.”