NINE months after being unveiled as one of Glasgow Warriors marquee signings for the 2021-22 season, Josh McKay finally touched down on these shores on Thursday, and attended his first training session with the club on Monday – but we are not likely to see the back-three man in action in a match situation for a few weeks yet.
“I’m pretty green here – the new kid on the block – so I’ll have to get my head down and do a bit of learning first,” explained the 24-year-old, who missed the first chunk of this United Rugby Championship campaign because he was committed to seeing out Canterbury’s National Provincial Championship campaign back in his native New Zealand.
“I think I was initially meant to be over about two or three weeks ago, but with there being no games [for Glasgow] during the Test match window it worked out well to stay over there for a couple more weeks after the Mitre 10 Cup – or the Bunnings NPC as we call it now – was pushed back a few weeks because of Covid,” he added.
“We lost in the semi-final two weekends ago – and the final was the weekend just past – but I would have been over here by then even if we had made it. Missing that would have been tough, but it is what it is.”
There is no immediate pressure to rush McKay into the team. Rufus McLean, Kyle Steyn and Walter Fifita are all back from international duty, Ratu Tagive is near to a comeback after suffering a facial injury at the start of the season, and Cole Forbes, Ollie Smith and Sebastian Cancelliere are also in the back-three mix ahead of Saturday’s trip to Treviso to take on Benetton.
However, it has been a long courtship conducted at distance, so there is an understandable desire to consummate the relationship on the field of play sooner rather than later. Warriors head coach Danny Wilson has made no secret of his excitement about the pace and attacking edge McKay can bring to the side, while the new player is looking forward to pushing his career on after four frustrating seasons during which he has had limited opportunities to shine in Super Rugby.
“I’m just looking for something new, a bit of a change while I’m young, I don’t want to regret anything in my rugby career,” said McKay. “Hopefully, I can just get on the field soon and help out the team where I can.
“I did three years with the Highlanders, then one year with the Crusaders, and for all of that time except my third year with the Highlanders I didn’t really play much footie – mainly due to nearly all the people in front of me being either All Blacks or solidified Super Rugby players.
“So, I was always hanging out for the NPC with Canterbury, where I’d play a bit more footie. That was great, but I want to test myself at a higher level.
“There might be a bit more set-piece over here, and it’ll maybe be a bit colder with more rain than I’m used to, but rugby is rugby and I’m just going to do what I can and play my natural game.
“I had some good conversations with Danny before I came over,” McKay added. “He’s keen to play an attacking brand of footie, and obviously with the 4G pitch at Scotstoun there is not going to be as many boggy games, which suits outside backs like me who want to play with the ball in hand.”
While his name wouldn’t look out of place on a Scotland team-sheet, McKay insists that becoming the next ‘kilted kiwi’ is not on his radar.
“Five generations ago, my grandparents’ grandparents came across from Scotland, so there is a bit of McKay heritage over here if you go up the family tree, but that’s not enough to qualify and I’m not here for that,” he stated.
He could, of course, take the residential route to a Scotland cap, but that now requires five years in the country, which means McKay will be closing in on 30 by the time he becomes eligible, and it doesn’t really seem to be something the player is prepared to countenance. “I’m not really thinking about that at the moment, I’ve only been here five days!” he said.
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