Nick McLennan (28) is a shining example of how rugby can take a young fellow from Oamaru to the world. The former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil passed through the North Otago, New Zealand Universities, Crusaders and Hawkes Bay communities before a spell in Russia. He is now a regular in the Scotland sevens team. Hayden Meikle meets a rehabilitating McLennan back in his home town.
Q: How long are you back home for?
I’m here for about another week. I’ve been back in New Zealand since about the end of January. I came over for the Wellington sevens and haven’t left, really. It’s probably the longest I’ve been back home since I was about 17.
Q: What happened after the Wellington sevens?
I injured my knee, and then I got an infection. They think it was from the surgery. I spent two and a-half weeks in Dunedin Hospital. I was supposed to just pop home for 10 days and then fly back to the UK. After hospital, I had another six weeks on IV antibiotics at home. So I’ve only just come off that. It’s been a nightmare.
Q: How have you coped with a long spell on the sidelines?
It’s not very nice. I’m used to being on the go, and training all the time. I haven’t been able to do anything. I couldn’t go to the gym or anything. Just sitting round, twiddling my thumbs. It’s a bit of a mental battle. You get a bit down. I lost about 10kg. I lost my appetite completely, and didn’t eat properly for six or seven weeks.
Q: What happens now?
Slowly getting back into it. I’m just focusing on getting the knee right. I don’t want to do anything stupid in the gym, but I will be into a decent programme when I get back.
Q: Where is home for you now?
Edinburgh. We’ve been there since 2014, my partner Katie and I. She’s a school teacher. It’s a really cool city. It’s not too big, but it’s got everything you need. There’s always something going on, and you can get around easily.
Q: Are you playing 15s rugby in Scotland or just sevens now?
I’m just sevens. I signed a sevens contract last year.
Q: What have you been doing since you left Waitaki Boys’?
I went to university at Lincoln. I went through the Canterbury age grades, and played for the Crusaders development team. I sort of wasn’t getting a look in at the top level, so I decided to move to Hawkes Bay. I ended up there for two seasons before I ruptured my Achilles. Then the opportunity came up to go to Scotland.
Q: You qualify for Scotland through grandparents?
Yeah. And at the time, they were doing a big push to get players who were eligible for Scotland. There isn’t a lot of depth over there. So I went over and gave it a crack, and the sevens thing just sort of came out of the blue. I jumped at the opportunity. I hadn’t been a regular starter for Edinburgh, and it’s not the same when you’re not playing every week. I was looking for something new.
Q: Was sevens always a natural fit?
Not really, to be honest. I’d played a little bit here but it was always just over summer. I just fell into it in Scotland. I’m loving it.
Q: How many games have you played for the Scotland sevens team?
Maybe 50 or 60. I think I’ve done 13 or 14 tournaments. It’s pretty cool. The circuit goes to some amazing cities, and our coach always gives us a day off to have a look around the place. He understands that this is our job but we’re a human being at the same time. You’ve got to have that balance. The first time I played the Wellington sevens was pretty special. I had a lot of family and friends come up for it.
Q: Was it a weird feeling when you played New Zealand?
Not really. You don’t really focus on it. Scotland is home, pretty much. You put that jersey on, and that’s you.
Q: What does the future hold?
I’d like to do another year of sevens. Next year, we’ve got the Commonwealth Games and the Sevens World Cup. I want to put my best foot forward for those. There’s a lot of hard work ahead but that’s an awesome opportunity. I always said I’d like to come back for a season in North Otago, but we’ll just see how things go.