United Rugby Championship: In-form Johnny McNicholl hopes to force his way into Warren Gatland’s Wales squad
Scarlets star Johnny McNicholl is adamant that he still has plenty to offer to the Wales team despite missing out on the Six Nations squad.
McNicholl has been one of the form outside backs in the United Rugby Championship (URC) this season but has yet to earn a recall to the Test set-up since featuring in the Six Nations defeat to Italy.
Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel described him as a “devastating attacker”, and his stats highlight that point; he leads the URC in metres gained (805) and offloads (21). He has also beaten 26 defenders, claimed 13 clean breaks and has 12 try involvements, five assists and seven tries.
The 10 Test cap international admits that he is disappointed that he did not get recalled to the Wales squad but understood that he might not fit the requirements.
“Yes, I was disappointed not to be in the Six Nations squad, is the short answer,” McNicholl said.
“It’s just one man’s opinion at the end of the day. I know I am playing well. I’ve been happy with my performances.
“I might not be the type of player they want in their squad. Who knows what they are having in their back-room chats.
“It’s just a couple of people’s opinions, and I can’t really change that other than play well, and I feel like I am doing that. So it is what it is.
“I am a confident player, and I would probably say I could add something to any squad, be it Wales or any club team in the world.
“But I’m not the one that picks the team. They might have a different agenda; they might want different types of players.”
Knocking on the door
The 32-year-old joined the Scarlets from the Crusaders in 2016 and made his Test debut for Wales in 2019 through residency.
He earned all 10 of his Test caps under former head coach Wayne Pivac and is now looking to impress Warren Gatland and force his way back into the squad.
“It’s just the start of that new reign with Wales. It’s disappointing not to have made the squad, but my focus is at the Scarlets and playing really good rugby,” he explained.
“Normally, playing really good rugby means you get rewarded with higher honours, so hopefully I’ll continue to do that, continue to knock on that door and potentially, I can change those minds that are picking those squads.”
McNicholl brought up his half-century of tries for the Scarlets in January this year and has added three scores since.
Scarlets boss Peel has been delighted with his full-back’s all-round game and has backed the talented player to feature predominately in their URC clash against Munster this weekend.
“Johnny has been one of the form players. He is a devastating attacker, he loves getting his hands on the ball, he beats defenders, and he’s been very disciplined in the defensive side of the game,” Peel said.
“He’s got the ability to play 15 and 14. When he’s played on the wing, he’s defended well. I like him at fullback as well because he gets more touches.
“In the Stormers game, he had 26 touches on the ball, which is a hell of a lot for a fullback. Get him on the ball is the biggest thing for me. We need him there as much as we can.”
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