AUDIO: Super Rugby compared to Euro comps
LISTEN as Australian-born Italian international Luke McLean explains to Jan de Koning why he moved halfway across the world to play the game and reveals which he thinks is the best global competition.
McLean, who was eligible for both Australia, the country of his birth, and Italy, due to his Italian parents, left Australia in 2009 - which he describes as a 'rushed decision' at a very young age.
Having represented the Australia Under-19, he made his international debut for Italy on 21 June 2008 against South Africa in Cape Town - less than a year after having joined Italian team Calvisano from the Perth Spirit in the Australian Rugby Championship, having turned down a 'senior training contract' with the Western Force Super Rugby outfit.
He said he has 'no regrets' about giving up a chance to play Super Rugby - a competition he rates very highly.
"It was a 'go now, or it [the chance] may never be there again'," McLean told rugby365 in an exclusive interview.
"I didn't know what went through my head, moving halfway around the world," he quipped.
"I thought, I would go there for about 18 months and then go have another dabble in Australia."
A decade and 89 Azzurri Test caps later the 30-year-old is still enjoying his European venture.
Having played for several clubs - Benetton Treviso, Sale Sharks and Treviso and - since he joined Calvisano in 2007 - he signed for Premiership strugglers London Irish in 2017.
While the dream of a Super Rugby stint is still there, his more immediate goal is to 'keep enjoying myself, playing rugby'.
He said he will consider a Super Rugby offer if there is one.
"I considered it when I was younger, but nothing came of it," McLean said told rugby365.
"At the point where I am [in my career], I will definitely consider it.
"That would be a great way to cap everything off.
"Super Rugby, from a spectator's point of view, is by far the best rugby in the World - the open play, the running rugby, how intense the games are.
"So, if there ever was an opportunity, I would look at it.
"Having watched the last few rounds of Super Rugby, any player would be silly not to take up an opportunity if it becomes available."
Addressing the dire situation at his current club, London Irish, McLean said they are not going to give up the fight.
The Exiles are bottom of the table, on 22 points, nine behind Worcester Warriors in the race to avoid relegation.
"Everything hasn't gone according to plan," McLean admitted, adding: "[But] mathematically we still have a chance."
If they win their remaining games - against Saracens at the Madejski Stadium and Bath at the Recreation Ground - with bonus points and Worcester don't pick any points (against Harlequins at Sixways and Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens) the Exiles can stay in the Premiership.
"All the boys are working towards that," he said, adding: "There have been some changes from a coaching standpoint, so it has been an adjustment period.
"We are still working towards the goal of saving ourselves and no one has given up hope."
McLean also addressed the current uncertainty surrounding the financial stability of clubs in the Premiership - with only defending champions Exeter Chiefs not running at a loss.
"It's never been brought up at London Irish," he said of the dire situation of club ruby.
"With the other players that I know around the Premiership, nobody is that concerned.
"We are paid to turn up and do a job.
"Everybody is focussed on that.
If there are problems, hopefully, there are some pretty smart people higher up that can figure those issues out.
" However, from our standpoint and from my personal experience, there are no real issues in that regard."
By Jan de Koning
* London Irish stars Luke McLean, Tommy Bell and Joe Cokanasiga visited amateur club Reading RFC as part of Aviva’s Grassroots Surprises campaign to champion the inclusive and diverse nature of rugby. The club also won £2,000 of Gilbert kit and equipment courtesy of Aviva, title sponsor of Aviva Premiership Rugby.