Mackintosh shows loyalty to Highlanders

TOUGH DECISION: Jamie Mackintosh says he wants to stay at the Highlanders despite his position in the side coming under threat with the acquisition All Blacks' prop Tony Woodcock.
TOUGH DECISION: Jamie Mackintosh says he wants to stay at the Highlanders despite his position in the side coming under threat with the acquisition All Blacks' prop Tony Woodcock.

Jamie Mackintosh has indicated he is keen to remain with the Highlanders and fight for his place in the side next season.

Mackintosh's future with the team has come under question in recent weeks after All Blacks loosehead prop Tony Woodcock announced a move south from the Blues on a two-year deal.

Woodcock's signing will greatly reduce Mackintosh's game time, and force him to be more of an impact player off the bench.

With Mackintosh not guaranteed a starting position, Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph was also likely to appoint a new captain.

Speaking to The Southland Times yesterday, Mackintosh said there were both positives and negatives for him around the arrival of Woodcock at the Highlanders.

Mackintosh has had a massive workload in the past couple of years, barely missing a game for the Highlanders or Southland. Woodcock's addition would enable him to split the playing time with him and stay in optimum condition for the long Super Rugby season.

Mackintosh would also be able to gain valuable insight and experience from the 89-test veteran, who is widely regarded as the best loosehead prop in world rugby.

He has spoken to Joseph since Woodcock's signing and plans to meet up with him again, once he arrives back in the country from Japan.

"The decision came as a surprise to me but I see both sides to it," Mackintosh said.

"You can look at it in a negative way, where I'm not going to get any game-time and lose my captaincy, or you can look at it in the other way: I'm going to get shared game-time and learn off the best."

Mackintosh, 27, is contracted to the Highlanders for next year and said he wanted to gain clarity from Joseph about his exact role with the side for next year.

"I'm coming to a time when I've got to do what's best for myself and the franchise as well.

"If me going back to the Highlanders and not being captain is what's best for the team, I'd do that, without a doubt."

At the weekend, Mackintosh was linked with a shift to the Blues, but he scoffed at those rumours yesterday. He said he had not been contacted by Blues coach John Kirwan or anyone else at the franchise.

Mackintosh has been with the Highlanders since 2004 and has witnessed the team's transformation from Super Rugby strugglers to finals contenders during the past two years.

The Highlanders are a team on the rise, and Mackintosh said his priority was to remain in the south and see the side deliver on their potential.

Mackintosh has been captain of the Highlanders for the past two years and agreed it would be tough for him if the franchise decided to name a new leader.

"Not making the All Blacks over the last few years has been disappointing for me but I've taken great pride in being a Super Rugby captain," he said.

"I've always thought that was my calling. I've worked really hard on my leadership and captaincy. It would be pretty difficult going back and not being captain."

Mackintosh was set to benefit from the International Rugby Board's proposed rule change that would allow teams to carry an extra prop on the reserves bench.

He was excited about the move and believed it would improve the quality of scrummaging and enable props to concentrate on one position.

Specialist loosehead props such as Mackintosh and Wyatt Crockett would also have a better chance of pushing for opportunities with the All Blacks. Mackintosh played his lone test for the All Blacks against Scotland in 2008 and said he was determined to force his way into the international reckoning.

"I want to commit to New Zealand rugby for the next two years and I want to get back to the All Blacks.

"I really want to be an All Black again. I'm working really hard to do it. I know I've got my work-ons with my scrummaging, but I work as hard as anyone on that.

"What I've learned from rugby since my [All Black] debut has been a lot. I've grown as a player and a person."