BNZ Crusaders outside back Johnny McNicholl will head to Wales at the end of this year to play for the Scarlets Club in Llanelli. 

McNicholl, who is playing his fourth season with the BNZ Crusaders, said he had been approached by the Scarlets Club and agreed to a 2.5 year contract beginning at the end of 2016. 

“This is a great opportunity to experience living and playing in a different part of the world.  I am at a stage in my life that I would like to do some more travel while I don’t have family commitments back in New Zealand, and I am so fortunate to be able to do that with my rugby career,” McNicholl said. “The Scarlets club appeals because they are a successful team that plays a similar brand of rugby to the Crusaders, and working under a Kiwi coach in Wayne Pivac will make that transition easier.

“Leaving the BNZ Crusaders and Canterbury Rugby will be extremely hard though because they are both teams that I love and feel incredibly privileged to have played for.  I grew up in Christchurch and these were the teams that I always aspired to be a part of, so I am very grateful to have had that opportunity.  I will definitely miss my teammates and the whole team culture here, but I’ll be the biggest Crusaders and Canterbury supporter living in Wales.”

Crusaders Head Coach Todd Blackadder said McNicholl was a special player who would be sorely missed in the team: “Johnny is a rare talent.  His speed and ability to break through tackles has never been on better display than in the last couple of games, and we are loving seeing Johnny back to his best after a frustrating run with injuries over recent years.  He is a superb team man who is much respected by all of those who have had the pleasure of working and playing with him.  We will miss him but look forward to a fantastic final season with him,” Blackadder said.

Canterbury Asssistant Coach Joe Maddock said McNicholl would be missed for his rugby skills but more importantly his friendship: “Johnny is an outstanding player, but the reason he’s been so successful at Canterbury is primarily because he’s such a good bloke.  He reads the game better than most wingers and knows how to put himself in the right place at the right time, he has a phenomenal work rate, but he is also just a great guy.  I’ve really enjoyed working with Johnny and, like everyone here, will be sad to see him go.  We’ll be determined to make his final season in red and black a memorable one though.”

Crusaders and Canterbury Rugby CEO Hamish Riach also paid tribute to the contribution McNicholl had made: “Johnny is a true Canterbury and Crusaders man and we value the commitment that he has shown to these teams as he made his way through the representative ranks in Canterbury as a young player, then made the Canterbury team in 2012 and the Crusaders in 2013.  We are disappointed to lose a player of his calibre but we will send Johnny off with our best wishes when the time comes – and in the meantime we will enjoy watching him continue to play his exciting style of rugby in his final seasons with the BNZ Crusaders and Canterbury.”