After making the transition from sevens to 15-a-side look easy, England’s Ruaridh McConnochie insists he is now ready to scale the heights of the international game.
The 27-year-old Rio 2016 silver medallist joined Bath Rugby last summer and made an instant impact for the West Country club, scoring four tries in 15 Premiership matches.
He also made his European Champions Cup bow in his breakthrough season, with his performances on the wing earning him a place in England’s final squad for Japan.
And while McConnochie admits he has been on a steep learning curve, he intends to put his best foot forward having secured a coveted place in Eddie Jones’ 31-man travelling party.
“Obviously coming into 15-a-side new this year it was all a new world to me and I had to get used to the game,” said McConnochie, while testing out his flying skills in British Airways’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight simulator.
“I think my form was peaking at the right time and hopefully it will keep getting better over this summer but playing in Japan will be completely different to playing at home.
“Week in, week out I’ve been keeping very motivated at Bath Rugby. Having come from sevens, post-tournament we would have a few weeks rest and the recovery before training.
“But with Bath we may have a game on Saturday and then another on the following Friday, so it’s all about that quick turnaround and switching your brain from one side to the next.
“It’s incredibly motivating knowing that we’ve got a big squad as well and anyone can take your place at any time, so you always have to be at the top of your game.”
The former England Sevens player, the only uncapped player in the squad for the showpiece, has impressed Jones already with his versatility across the back three for Bath.
And although the pressure is now on him to earn his ticket to Japan, McConnochie believes the strength in depth throughout the England squad is only a positive.
“I think as a team we all want to go to Japan and win,” said the former Hartpury College star. “That’s the pinnacle of rugby and that’s what we’re going to be there to do.
“I think our development as a team over the last year has been massive. We’ve blooded a lot of new, young players coming through and I think that just adds to the team in terms of excitement.
“It also adds to our talent pool and our squad depth, which is great when you’re going into a year like this one. To have that strength in depth is great and it’s been shown by the number of new caps.
“I think new people coming through and new players marking their territory on the team with great performances is awesome.
“We will be pushing our bodies to their limits to know that we can really do anything in 80 minutes on a rugby pitch but getting together as a team will be good fun.”
Injury prevented McConnochie from featuring in England’s 33-19 win over Wales but he can’t wait to embrace upcoming Quilter Internationals against the Welsh, Ireland and Italy.
“I think the next few games are massively important for us as a squad, it’s a great marker point in terms of where we are before going to Japan,” added McConnochie, who alongside Ellis Genge and Tom Dunn was taking part in an appearance for British Airways on behalf of England Rugby.
“These warm-up games coming up is going to be a great test, and we’re really looking forward to it as a squad.”
With McConnochie’s spot in the squad secure he will face a further test – how to pass the time during the 11 and a half hour British Airways flight to Narita International Airport in Tokyo.
He added: “I’d watch as many movies as I could and then try and sleep, but I’m really rubbish at sleeping on flights. If I don’t sleep, I’d probably end up wandering the aisles annoying people.”
British Airways is the Official Airline Partner to England Rugby and Principal Partner to Twickenham Stadium. The airline has taken England Rugby teams and staff all over the world. In our centenary year, British Airways is providing the England Rugby team with logistical and operational support in the lead up to, and during their trip to Japan this year. For more information go to www.ba.com/rugby.