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Byron McGuigan’s out to steal march on Scotland

(Photo: Steve Bardens / Getty Images)

By Jon Newcombe

BYRON McGuigan is hoping his terrific try-scoring form with Sale Sharks will catch the eye of the Scotland selectors.

McGuigan qualifies for Scotland through his Glaswegian mother and has played for Scotland A  and represented the Sevens side on the world stage earlier in his career. He is hoping his fine form will bring higher honours in the lead up to the World Cup.

“If an opportunity arises, I’d love to play Test rugby for Scotland,” he told The Rugby Paper. “It seems like I am off the radar but it would be a great honour for myself and my mother if that changed.

“Sean Maitland and Tim Visser are both playing in the Premiership so hopefully this is a way in.”

After five rounds, Namibian-born McGuigan leads the Premiership try-scoring charts with six tries, including his first-ever senior hat-trick against Gloucester, while team-mate Denny Solomona, right, is tied with three others on five.

McGuigan’s knack for picking the opposition’s pockets – he got two intercept tries against the Cherry & Whites – brings back memories of ex-England winger Mike Harrison. But, with his love of dry, cured meat, the 28-year-old McGuigan is more ‘Burglar Billatong’ than ‘Burglar Bill’.

“Myself and Josh Strauss both like billatong and we’ve started making it at home,” he explained. “We’re going to be giving it to the boys and if it’s any good, we’ll maybe consider starting up a business.”

As for his interceptions, McGuigan says the skill comes naturally. “I tend to read plays before they unfold and I intercept the ball quite a lot in training, it just hasn’t come off in games – until Friday.

“I am very pleased and very thankful for the way things have been going in my favour.

“That’s the first hat-trick I have ever scored, and it’s probably one that I will never forget as it came in a big win for us, our biggest since 2004. Everyone did their role and we were very clinical.”

The success McGuigan is enjoying at Sale contrasts sharply to his final season at Exeter when he failed to make a single Premiership appearance. “I’m just very grateful for the opportunities I’ve been getting,” he said.

“I think I have fitted in well at Sale and the coaches’ game plan makes our job as wingers easier because the attacking shape is so good. We always have more than one option on a play and that keeps defences guessing.

“In my first season at Exeter I played in pretty much every game before I got injured. In my second season, the club had a very good season, reaching the final, and the policy was to stick with a winning side. Other good wingers were playing well and I struggled to get on the bench.”

Not since the days of Steve Hanley and Mark Cueto have Sale had the two best finishers in the land. But McGuigan insists that it is way too early to make comparisons despite his and Solomona’s form.

“To be just mentioned alongside those names is a huge complement but it is still very early days.”

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