As Rotherham’s 16 new signings settle in at Clifton Lane for their second week of pre-season training, one of them, fly half James McKinney from Ulster, has a head start.
The 23-year-old from Belfast, who played in consecutive Junior World Cups for Ireland in 2010 and 2011, has returned to the Titans after only one season back at home where he played 12 times for Ulster.
McKinney, a success in his first period with Titans in 2012-13, has a huge role as likeliest candidate to take over the goal kicking duties from the departed Juan Pablo Socino, the 300-plus Championship’s highest scorer last season.
“ I really enjoyed the last time I was here and when I was approached to come back, it appealed to me because I like Rotherham’s style.
“ They play rugby the way it should be played and coach Lee Blackett deserves massive credit. A free-flowing style with the ball in hand moves teams about and puts them under pressure.
“ So I am sure I will get plenty of kicking opportunities.Socino’s boots are big ones to fill and I’m looking forward to trying to reach those heights.
“Lee has told us that the aim this season is to make further progress, to develop and not to rest on our laurels.
“The Championship is a very challenging league and it will be difficult this season. You’ve got Bristol signing a British Lion and then you look at Worcester, Leeds and London Scottish.
“ So it’s a very competitive league, but Rotherham’s squad has lots of talent.They’ve just had a successful season and I was almost jealous that I wasn’t there.
“ Lee has made some good signings. Forward Perry Parker from Edinburgh is a giant, Adam Macklin, whom I know from Ulster, is solid and experienced and another Irishman, William Ryan, a number eight from Munster, is a big man.”
So McKinney, a high quality player who should have benefitted from a season with Ulster, is set to play a major role at Rotherham where his skills should make the backs even more dangerous.