Steven Shingler looking forward to fresh start at Scarlets
WHO knows, if things had turned out differently Steven Shingler could be preparing to go head to head with older brother Aaron at Murrayfield this weekend.
Instead, the talented 21-year-old is looking forward to his return home to Hendy in the summer and catching a lift in with 'big brother' to training every morning.
After two years in the Aviva Premiership Shingler is heading back to West Wales after signing a three-year deal with the Scarlets.
It brings to an end an eventful couple of years in Reading, one that saw him emerge as a regular points scorer and one which saw him also end up at the centre of an eligibility row.
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Shingler qualifies for Scotland through his mother Jeanette, who hails from Langholm in the Scottish Borders.
But having played for Wales Under-20s, the switch, after endless amounts of appeals hearings and numerous headlines, was blocked.
"I was pretty upset and it was hard for me," says Shingler in an interview with this month's Rugby World.
"Mike Catt and Toby Booth (London Irish coaches) were a big help, and my agent Derwyn Jones was fantastic.
"Scotland were appealing, so I just got on with training and playing, and I was really enjoying my rugby.
"The row went on and on for longer than I expected. I was trying to forget what was going on — that's easier said than done when you're 20."
Ironically, while the powers-that-be were deciding his fate, Aaron was winning his first Wales cap at the Millennium Stadium — against Scotland.
"It's hilarious now to think of it," he recalls. "I was over the moon for him, though. We grew up hoping to play for Wales and for him to reach his dream was fantastic.
"Of course I want to play for Wales. You always want to reach the highest level you can.
"I don't know how people will react now. I'm sure I will get some banter from the players — I've been called McShingler a bit — but I would be the first one to give it to someone else so I have to take it."
Shingler says he is returning to Llanelli a more rounded player and individual.
At the Scarlets, he was regarded as fourth choice behind Stephen Jones, Rhys Priestland and Dan Newton, but although he has found opportunities at the Madejski limited in recent times, he has been delighted by how much exposure he has had to Premiership and European rugby while with Irish.
"If I'd stayed in Wales, my realistic aim in these two years would have been to get on the Scarlets bench," he says.
"I've come up against great players and I couldn't have done that if I hadn't moved.
"It was a good playing decision and I've got a lot of experience playing in one of the hardest leagues in the world.
"I wanted to get out of that bracket of being considered a development player and gain some respect and I feel I've done that.
"I was a first-choice starter (for Irish) in the centre from early on. I'd love to be playing ten, but if I'm on the pitch I'm happy.
"I want to play week in, week out for the Scarlets and I'd love to kick the goals, as I believe that is one of the strongest parts of my game.
"My dream was always to play ten for them, like Stephen Jones. The opportunity to go there (to the Scarlets) arose; if I didn't give it a crack I'd regret it."