Hyde living the Ireland dream

Ulster Academy prospect Hayden Hyde has acknowledged it was a relatively straightforward decision to choose playing for Ireland over his native England.

Hyde living the Ireland dream

Ulster Academy prospect Hayden Hyde has acknowledged it was a relatively straightforward decision to choose playing for Ireland over his native England.

A product of the Irish Exiles programme — he has strong roots in Dublin on his mother’s side — Hyde was offered a spot in an English training camp towards the end of his time at Cranleigh School in Surrey.

However having already represented Ireland at U18 and U19 level, the towering centre had no desire to switch allegiances.

“For me, it was always Ireland, it’s always been that way,” Hyde explained from the IRFU’s new training base in Abbotstown.

"You think I could stay and play with England and it would be more comfortable, but Ireland has always been the thing I wanted to do.

"It was an easy enough decision to make.

“Obviously you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket and be like, ‘I have to play for Ireland, I have to do this.’

"It’s been a big dream of mine but it was just really nice to be able to do it and make it a reality.”

Hyde integrated fully into the Irish system when he joined Ulster from Harlequins last summer and is expected to make his Ireland U20s debut when Noel McNamara’s defending champions welcome Scotland to Musgrave Park on Friday (kick-off 7.15pm).

There are strong parallels to be drawn between Hyde and Sam Arnold, who embarked on the same journey from Surrey to Belfast in 2015 before eventually moving to his current employers Munster the following year.

He admits his fellow Cranleigh alum had a major influence in his decision to join the northern province.

“I spoke to Sammy a fair bit before coming over and after as well, because our [Cranleigh] coach Andy Houston knew him really well.

"He talked me through the whole process and the pros and cons of it as well. Obviously you have a lot more opportunity with a smaller player base.

You have really, really good high quality coaching on top of that. It is really nice to have someone out there who knows the process.

While just seven players return from last year’s Grand Slam-winning squad, anticipation is still high ahead of Ireland’s Six Nations opener.

After appearing exclusively as a replacement in that successful 2019 campaign, Ulster and Banbridge star David McCann is set to captain the side from the back row.

If they are to replicate the impressive form of 12 months ago, Hyde believes it is important for McNamara’s 37-man unit to pull together in the one direction.

“Everyone has been pushing to get the squad closer together initially.

"Just getting everyone on the same wavelength. There was a big push in the Fota Island camp.

"Now it is about getting ourselves ready for a game, everyone is buzzing about it.”

Hyde added: “Everyone is excited to get it kicked off, it’s a big part of a young player’s career.

"It is a huge stage to be playing on.”

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