McGuigan v Adams... clash of Aviva Premiership’s try titans

Byron McGuigan has scored eight tries for Sale Sharks in the Aviva Premiership  this season.
Byron McGuigan has scored eight tries for Sale Sharks in the Aviva Premiership this season.
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In another era Kenny Logan famously earned 46 caps before the winger managed to grab his first try in the Six Nations Championship.

But these are changed days for the free-scoring Scots and the latest recruit to the back three managed a brace on his debut against Australia in November.

What’s more, Byron McGuigan was given approximately ten minutes to prepare himself to start that Test after Stuart Hogg went down in the warm-up, which may not have been a bad thing for a Test debutant such as the Namibian-born Sale Shark.

“The Australia game caught me off guard,” McGuigan admits, “but at the same time , it did not give me much time to think about it, which is a good thing. Nothing changes. I am going out to enjoy the moment and express myself on the rugby field within the team structures that we have.”

The winger has a Scottish mother and he insists that he was weaned on the Six Nations where he supported the boys in blue. His personal heroes were Chris Paterson and Gregor Townsend who, incidentally, played back in 2002 when 
Scotland last won in Cardiff.

McGuigan, pictured, admits that it is a little surreal having his childhood hero as coach, although not much slips past Townsend’s beady eye.

One week after making his international bow, the Sale flyer earned his first-ever red card, after getting a pair of yellows, the latter for a tip tackle. Shortly after he received a text from the boss saying that the disciplinary 
hiccup had been noted. Big Brother is watching you.

Saturday will mark McGuigan’s Six Nations bow, although, with one cap to his name, he is more experienced than the man he is marking. Josh Adams 
usually plays on Worcester Warriors’ left wing, so McGuigan has yet to go head to head with the new Welsh cap in the Aviva Premiership.

The twin try scorers bear testament to the style of rugby that should be on offer this Saturday. Adams heads the Aviva stats with nine tries, McGuigan one behind him with eight to his credit.

It is not just at club level that McGuigan has an excellent try-scoring record, with two for Scotland at Test level (admittedly it is early days yet), but he is all too aware that the Six Nations is a very different animal to the autumn series.

“Personally I have not played against a Northern Hemisphere team, but it’s very much defence and a tactical way of playing usually in the Six Nations.

“Obviously in the autumn we played against teams that run the ball a bit more and we got the opportunity to showcase some of our skills and also how to defend that. It’s going to be a different challenge definitely, but it’s one that we are looking forward to.”

The match promises to be a humdinger despite, or perhaps because of, the slew of players that are unavailable. Rhys Patchell starts a Test at ten for the first time having played some of his best rugby at full-back for both club and country; Ruaridh Jackson may yet do something similar?

Indeed six of the seven Welsh backs are Scarlets, with four more in the pack which strongly suggests that Warren Gatland will abandon the one-out bashing game that took his name and instead attempt to beat Scotland at their own brand of running rugby.

Where Wales have an obvious advantage is in familiarity. Twin centres Hadleigh Parkes and Scott Williams have played umpteen matches together and know each other inside out. Scotland’s backline boasts five Glasgow Warriors but the midfield duo of Huw Jones and Falcons’ Chris Harris have yet to play a single minute of a match in tandem, not that McGuigan is concerned.

“So far at training it’s been going really well. It’s a new combination but at the same time it is Chris’s first opportunity and he’ll be hungry to put in a good performance.

“We have full faith in the starting XV and the reserves that are going to come on to do a job.”