SCOTLAND flanker John Hardie says criticism of his ‘parachuting’ into the Scotland Rugby World Cup squad came as no surprise and that he is fully focused on delivering for his adopted country.
The New Zealand-born openside, who qualifies through his Fife grandmother, had been tracked by the SRU for a couple of years but had to wait until his contract with Super Rugby outfit Otago Highlanders expired in mid-July before joining the extended World Cup training squad.
After being capped twice in the warm-up games away to Italy and France, 27-year-old Hardie was named in Vern Cotter’s 31-man World Cup squad at the expense of Blair Cowan and John Barclay.
The haste of Hardie’s advancement in the national set-up was criticised by former Scotland prop Peter Wright, who branded it a “disgrace”, but the player said: “I think it was always going to be expected. I had to put my head down, work hard. It tested my character and I think I came out the other side.
“I always knew some people were not going to be happy about it, it was all about proving myself and my right to be here as much as anyone.
“It’s been awesome, the boys, management, everyone has made me feel welcome. It’s a bit surreal still, pretty awesome but now I’m going to get down ready for these next games, and put my best foot forward.”
Hardie and the rest of the Scotland squad depart for Gloucester this morning, seven days before their Pool B opener against Japan at Kingsholm Stadium. The latest ‘kilted Kiwi’ is unattached at present and when asked did not rule out the possibility of signing for one of the Scottish pro-teams.
“Yeah I definitely could,” he said. “I can see myself playing anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere to be honest and if it’s in Scotland or wherever I’ll be happy as Larry.”