Playing for Wales was a key factor in new deal
THE Scarlets’ New Zealandborn winger Johnny McNicholl has admitted the chance to play for Wales was a factor in deciding whether or not he signed a new deal with the West Wales region.
McNicholl will now qualify to play for Wales on residency grounds after this year’s Rugby World Cup, having signed a contract extension at Parc y Scarlets last week.
He will be eligible for selection having spent three years plying his trade in the country with no previous senior international honours.
That rule will increase to five years at the end of 2020.
The winger, who has scored 27 tries in 59 appearances for the Welsh side, has always trod carefully when the prospect of playing for Wales has been raised in the past.
But he now says he would be doing his daughter, who was born here, proud if he got the chance to pull on the famous red jersey.
“It was definitely a factor when me and my family were deciding to stay,” McNicholl told the BBC.
“If I do get that opportunity, I would be very humbled and grateful and take it with both hands.
“I feel like I’ve brought my partner over here, we’ve adopted the Welsh culture, we’ve lived here for three years. “We’ve really embraced it. “I’ve got a daughter now. She’s Welsh, she was born here, she’s going to pre-school here and I feel like if I do play for Wales, I’d be doing her and her home nation proud.”
If he were to be selected to play for Wales, he would be following in the footsteps of fellow Parc y Scarlets star Hadleigh Parkes.
After qualifying on residency the centre has become a hit with Welsh fans ever since he made a try-scoring debut against South Africa in 2017.
McNicholl, who was born in Christchurch, says he consulted Parkes before making the decision.
“I spoke to him about the national team and what it’s like to wear the jersey... do you feel part of that team and Welsh?” said McNicholl.
“He does and obviously he looks like he’s taken it with both hands and gone all the way there.”
If McNicholl does enough to force his way into the Welsh set-up, he will again be coached by Wayne Pivac, who takes over from the outgoing Warren Gatland at the end of the World Cup.