McAlister up for Sale

New Zealand fly-half Luke McAlister insisted he would be happy to play second fiddle to Charlie Hodgson at Sale Sharks at the press conference convened to announce his official arrival.

The 24-year-old, who was unveiled by the Guinness Premiership club at Edgeley Park, is set to make his debut at inside centre against Worcester a week on Friday, with England fly-half Hodgson retaining the number ten jersey.

“I’ve always looked up to Charlie,” said McAlister, who has signed a two-year contract.

“I enjoy the way he plays. I am happy to play anywhere. I’ll do the best I can for the team.”

McAlister, who won the last of his 24 caps in the All Blacks’ World Cup quarter-final defeat by France in Cardiff last month, admitted he agonised over his decision to move abroad, which essentially means forfeiting his national team jersey for the time being.

He is the third high-profile New Zealander to join the Premiership for this season, with prop Carl Hayman linking up with Newcastle and Saracens signing second row Chris Jack, and he anticipates more following suit as a result of the diminishing appeal of the All Black jersey.

“It was a huge decision,” he said.

“It took me five or six months to make it.

“But I felt it was time for a change. I wanted to play overseas and explore the world and I have backed my decision. I don’t want to look back.

“I’m probably one of the youngest to do it but I am sure there will be many more following.

“The game is changing so much. You grow up wanting to be an All Black but ways of thinking are changing and it’s only a short career.”

Although he has abandoned hope of adding to his All Black honours in the short term, McAlister admits it would be an incentive to play in the 2011 World Cup in his native New Zealand.

“That would be wonderful,” said McAlister, who will be 26 when his contract with Sale runs out.

“It would be good to play again if I was to go back but I can’t expect to.

“That’s for the future. My focus is now on Sale and whatever happens in the future happens. I really want to do my best for these guys.”

McAlister is thought to have turned down Munster and Toulouse to return to the north-west of England, where he lived for 10 years from the age of four while his father Charlie played rugby league for Oldham, Castleford and Sheffield Eagles.

He was a member of the Manchester United academy and remains a big Red Devils fan.

McAlister, who played in four of the All Blacks’ five matches at the World Cup, is likely to travel with the Sharks squad for Saturday’s European Challenge Cup tie against Petrarca before making his debut the following week.

“He will have a full week of training and we will make a decision during next week,” said director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre.

“He will probably be involved in the 22.”

McAlister will make his home debut against Bayonne in Sale’s next match at Edgeley Park on December 13.


365 Digital

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