Welcome mat out for Hayman
Cardiff - Some reckon the deal is already done, but for now all the All Blacks are saying about big Carl Hayman is that they expect to see him soon, they'd love him around more permanently and the ball's in his court.
According to Rugby Heaven correspondent Marc Hinton, Hayman, the giant tighthead prop who has never been effectively replaced since he snapped up a big-money deal with Newcastle following the 2007 World Cup, is on the final year of his contract with the club.
Most presume he'll come back to make a run at the 2011 World Cup, and it's understood there's a fairly firm line of communication between the NZRU and Hayman's agent.
On Tuesday in Cardiff, the Hayman name came up as assistant coach Wayne Smith sat down with the media and it was made more than clear that the welcome mat will be out for him to wipe his shoes on.
"Carl will probably join the team at some stage to say gidday," said Smith. "Carl's the sort of guy who makes his own mind up. I don't think he's the sort you coerce into anything.
"You don't want guys to be talked into coming back; you want guys who really want to come back.
"All we've got to do is make sure they understand we'd welcome them back, then they've got to make their own minds up."
Hayman has said he won't make that decision until closer to the end of this season, and he deflected an attempt by Stuff.co.nz to contact him, saying: "I've got nothing more to add."
But Smith all but confirmed the powerhouse prop would receive the sort of direct re-entry that would make Luke McAlister's look a prolonged one.
"Carl knows that he'd be welcomed back. He's been a great All Black and we love him. He's just got to make his own mind up," said Smith.
Smith said the All Blacks coaches had talked with "a lot" of UK and Europe-based players about things like timelines to re-enter the World Cup picture, but ultimately it came down to them making pivotal career decisions.
"You'd want them back by the middle of next year to have a decent crack at it," he said.
"Players know they're welcome back, but you're never guaranteed an All Black jersey, and that's the thing often that holds them back. To make that decision you've got to make sure you're up to the level and you back yourself.
"Only the player can make that decision."
Smith also felt McAlister's struggles since his return could not be held up as an example of the difficulty of making the return transition.
"With Luke it's purely injury – he needed footy, and just couldn't get the footy under his belt..."
Smith was pressed to name names on the All Blacks' radar, but avoided that pitfall. "One thing that's certain is you can't make it from over here," he said.