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'Everyone thinks you go in there, do push ups, and get screamed at'

Leinster lock Hayden Triggs is hoping to extend his contract into next season.

BEING STATIONED ON the Solomon Islands was the toughest point of Hayden Triggs’ time in the New Zealand Army.

Working in sweltering temperatures of close to 40°C while wearing his thick overalls to prevent mosquito bites, the young Kiwi learned some lessons about hard work.

In the midst of lawlessness in the country in 2003, then Solomons Island prime minister Allan Kemakeza had appealed for outside help and Triggs was part of the Australian-led cooperative response.

Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Summer Camps Launch Triggs was speaking at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Camps. Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Though ostensibly a mechanic in the New Zealand forces, Triggs turned his hand to all sorts of duties during his stint in the Solomons.

“The army is not what it seems,” says current Leinster second row Triggs of his former life. “Everyone thinks you go in there, do push ups, and get screamed at. It’s hardly the case.

“It was a wonderful opportunity, it taught me a lot of life skills, put me in touch with a lot of good people and thankfully they supported me. I kept playing rugby and as I got selected for more teams and took more time, they backed me 150%.

“I couldn’t give more praise to the New Zealand Army, they’ve shaped me to who I am and I wouldn’t be here without them, for sure.”

A Wellington boy, Triggs joined the army soon after graduating from school.

“I left school and heard an ad on the radio one day, ‘Join the Army,’” recalls Triggs. “This was the start of January, and by the start of February I was on a bus to Waiouru [Military Camp].

“I liked cars at the time. I wanted to be a vehicle mechanic and they accepted me to do that.”

Triggs spent much of his time in the army at the Linton base in the Manawatu region, rising to the rank of Corporal. The location just south of the city of Palmerstown North also allowed the second row to hook up with the Manawatu rugby side, who play in New Zealand’s provincial competition, now known as the Mitre 10 Cup.

Eoin Reddan tries to go around Hayden Triggs Triggs in action for the New Zealand Māori against an Ireland XV in 2010. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The mobile lock earned more than 70 caps with the provincial outfit between 2002 and 2008, earning himself a Super Rugby debut for the Hurricanes in 2007.

With his reputation continuing to grow thanks to playing for the Māori All Blacks, Triggs was contracted to the Highlanders in 2008, shifting to New Zealand’s South Island to spend three seasons with the Dunedin-based franchise.

2011 saw him move on to the Chiefs, but Triggs played just three times that season before Honda Heat in Japan came calling.

“Game day was awesome… I don’t want to get in trouble,” says Triggs when asked about his experiences in Japan. “Playing in Japan, it depends where you go.

If you crack a good team, get signed by a good team that has a good set of foreigners, because there’s only eight foreigners per team, has a good coach that you understand, it makes life a whole lot easier.

“You can’t go to a club and give your experience and try and help them out in the way you’ve learnt in New Zealand. You go there, you say yes to their systems, say yes to the way they play, otherwise you don’t get selected.

“A seven-month pre-season, for a tight forward, man that’s just not cool. I struggled to put on weight in my career and I just went there and shed a lot of weight through running and just training. Game day was cool. Compared to European rugby it was way easier.”

By 2014, Triggs was back in New Zealand rugby, first with North Harbour and then the Blues in Super Rugby. He played 24 times for the Auckland-based side in 2014 and 2015, with an impressive ITM Cup campaign for North Harbour in 2015 convincing Leinster that the 34-year-old could do a job for them this season.

Hayden Triggs Triggs has settled into life at Leinster happily. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Last October, the Kiwi second row signed a contract with the province until the end of the current campaign and, 12 appearances later, has no regrets about bringing his family to Ireland.

“I’ll start with living, they can speak English here!” says Triggs. “For my wife that’s the main thing. Japan was hard for her because there’s no one English speaking, so coming here that’s made it a lot easier.

“It’s cold but New Zealand gets just as cold, so that was easy. Dublin’s an awesome city. We love the city, and you travel 30 minutes on the N11 and you’re out in the country. It’s serene and beautiful out there.”

Triggs’ deal is set to expire in June as it stands, but the 6′ 7″ lock is hoping that he will still be with Leinster next season.

“I don’t know yet, no,” says Triggs when asked if he’s staying. “I don’t know yet. I’m trying to.

“I like this club, it’s a good set-up and they’re doing good things.”

The Lower Hutt man won’t say any more on that matter, but he’s clear in his desire to help Leo Cullen’s squad to a Guinness Pro12 title next month.

Curiously, Trigg’s time with the three New Zealand franchises he played for came before they showed real growth.

The Highlanders were poor from 2008 until 2010, but are now the reigning Super Rugby champions. The Hurricanes played in last year’s final. The Blues, meanwhile, struggled during Triggs’ stint, but are now showing hints of progress under Tana Umaga.

Munster’s Robin Copeland is tackled by Leinster’s Hayden Triggs Triggs started the win against Munster earlier this month. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

“I like to tell myself that I was part of building the foundations for those successes!” says Triggs with an easy laugh. “Definitely my time in New Zealand was hard, just results-wise, although enjoyable.

“The chance to get some silverware here and to win a championship would be, that’s what I’d love to be part of. Any way I can add to that, I’ll take 100%. It makes it way more enjoyable. The body is just getting there to the end of the season, you can see the light.

“If we could lift a trophy, that would be awesome man, not just for the club but the fans and the province as well.”

The Bank of Ireland Leinster Rugby Camps were launched by Jamie Heaslip, Jack McGrath and Hayden Triggs at a pop-up training session in St. Mary’s National School, Ranelagh. The camps will run in 27 different venues across the province throughout July and August. Visit www.leinsterrugby.ie/camps for more information.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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