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McKinley: My future is up in the air, there is a lot of confusion

Dubliner keeping everything in perspective amidst Italy's Covid-19 crisis

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Ian McKinley

Ian McKinley

SPORTSFILE

Ian McKinley

Like many professional players across Europe, Ian McKinley currently finds himself caught in limbo due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Such is the devastation that he has witnessed first-hand whilst living in Italy, rugby isn't exactly at the forefront of McKinley's mind, but he wouldn't be human if he wasn't conscious of the fact that he is out of contract at the end of the PRO14 season.

When exactly that will be is still very much up in the air, particularly for Benetton, who are based in Treviso, which is located near Lombardy - a region that has been hit extremely hard by the coronavirus.

McKinley remains in lockdown, trying to keep himself as busy as possible, and with no light at the end of the tunnel just yet, his rugby future is very much up in the air for now.

"I suppose there's been a bit of discussion around my future and all that sort of stuff, but this has just thrown a lot of stuff in the air," the 30-year-old admitted.

Massive

"This whole process has thrown a lot of things into a massive amount of confusion.

"There's a huge amount of question marks around various different things. If we do look at starting up the championship again, when is it going to be?

"Certain players are going to be in contract, out of contract, sponsorship deals. There's a huge amount that has to be sorted out if we even do get to that stage. It's very much a waiting game at the moment, which I know probably doesn't suit many people.

"But the thing is we're not, nobody is, in control of this, until some doctors or scientists manage to find a cure. All we can do is follow the guidelines that are put out by all the governments out there."

McKinley's pursuit of a contract extension hasn't been helped by the arrival of his fellow Dubliner Ian Keatley at Benetton.

Game-time has been more difficult to come by this season as Keatley moved ahead in the pecking order, and while that hasn't exactly been ideal from McKinley's point of view, he has welcomed the added competition.

"Obviously 'Keats' is someone who is very well respected, you only have to look at his record for the teams that he's played for," McKinley said.

"He's really accumulated a serious amount of points and he's a very well-respected rugby player over in Ireland and here already in Italy.

"He's already stamped out his mark with the team. Of course, as with any team, it's good to have competition, but the thing with Italian rugby is that you just have one team.

"The difference between Ireland and Italy is that at least if you aren't playing week-in, week-out, you have the 'A' team to maybe get a few games or even your (All-Ireland League) club.

"Here, it doesn't work like that. We're in a squad of 52 players and 23 go out into the field, so there's going to be some people that lose out."

The battle of the former Leinster out-halves very much pales into significance when you consider what is going on in their adopted country.

Across the country in Parma, Benetton's rivals Zebre are enduring similarly uncertain times, but amidst all the doom and gloom, their flanker Maxime Mbanda has been a beacon of hope with his volunteer work as an emergency ambulance driver.

"What Max is doing is fantastic and fair do's to him," McKinley added.

"I think everyone is applauding him and quite rightly. It's Trojan work, it really is.

"I know in Benetton here, we asked, there was a certain group of players who asked on behalf of the club if there were similar jobs to do, even if it was just taking food to people in need or helping out in any way, but we were under strict guidelines from the region that we are not to come in contact with anyone, so that was sort of put down quite quickly.

"We have noticed, particularly at the weekend, you can only hear two things - silence and ambulances. There is nothing and then literally a few minutes later, there is am ambulance siren going off.

"That is surreal in itself and then to see nobody on the streets. I don't think you can ever get used to it.

"The positive thing that has come out in the last couple of days is that the rate of infection has gone down.

"The deaths are still pretty high, but hopefully that means that the last three weeks have helped to keep the rate of infection down. That has been a huge positive here."