KIWI STAR EYES JAPAN OPTION
THE future of Kiwi star Johnny McNicholl at the Scarlets remains unclear as the player contemplates a possible move to Japan.
McNicholl, who signed for the Llanelli-based team from New Zealand Super Rugby outfit the Crusaders in 2016, is out of contract at the end of this season.
The full-back/wing is currently in discussions with the West Walians over a potential new deal, but head coach Wayne Pivac has revealed those talks have been put on hold as Welsh rugby’s new pay banding system is sorted out.
“Until the banding system is sorted we won’t know where those overseas players sit. That is pretty much on hold at the moment,” said Pivac.
“I think Johnny was just looking to see what was happening in the Japanese market, he has been very honest and open with us.
“I think if he doesn’t go there, then he will stay here.”
McNicholl qualifies for Wales at the end of the year by virtue of the current three-year residency ruling.
However, when he has been questioned on the possibility of representing Wales, he has admitted he is unsure about where his loyalties lie.
There is no doubt that Pivac, who becomes Wales head coach after this autumn’s Rugby World Cup, will be keen to secure the services of a player who crossed for a hat-trick of tries in last season’s Guinness PRO14 final and who has been one of his standout attacking performers in recent games.
McNicholl is second for clean breaks and defenders beaten in the competition this season, bettered only by Edinburgh wing Duhan van der Merwe.
The new player banding system, which is replacing the Welsh Rugby Union’s national dual contracts, will be discussed at a meeting between the governing body and the regions this week.
“If it is something that gets signed off by the players and the union, along with the clubs, then it can only be a good thing,” added Pivac.
“I would imagine everyone involved would want to get this finalised sooner rather than later.” Johnny McNicholl in action for the Scarlets against Connacht earlier this season.