Play­ing for Wales was a key fac­tor in new deal

Llanelli Star - - RUGBY -

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.

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