Not the next Ben Smith, but the first Josh McKay?

Josh McKay.
Josh McKay.
Highlanders back-up fullback Josh McKay hopes marking the best will help bring out the best in him.

The 21-year-old has been named in the Highlanders starting side for the match against the Rebels in Melbourne tomorrow night.

It is one of the few starts he is likely to get this year. Some bloke called Ben Smith will hog most of the opportunities in the No 15 jersey this season.

But as far as McKay is concerned, it is also one of the only downsides of being the understudy to the All Black great.

Smith is being rested this week, which means McKay gets a chance to shine, albeit on the left wing, and show just how much he has learned from his tutor.

Ben Smith.
Ben Smith.
The pair are often opposite each other in training scenarios and having to mark the best certainly sharpens up your instincts.

''I pretty much train against him and with him every day. Rubbing shoulders with him is really valuable,'' McKay said.

''For me, I've just got to soak up as much from him while he is at the Highlanders, so I can look to put my best foot forward leading on to next season.

''We all know how much of an attacking threat he is and he is one of the best in the world in the air as well.

''Trying to follow in his footsteps is awesome. But I don't want to be the next Ben Smith - I want to be the first Josh McKay.''

McKay has oodles of pace. In testing, he is the quickest player over 10m in the franchise. There is a fair chance he would be the quickest in a longer dash as well.

In his last year at school he ran an 11 second 100 metres, so he has the pace to beat and catch players. Now he is working on adding more power and physicality.

''I'm just trying to impose myself defensively in the tackle and then, on attack, trying to get through contact.

''Over the pre-season I've tried to stack a few more kilos on. I'm sitting about 93kg at the moment.''

McKay is more comfortable at fullback. But with his pace he will be threatening on the wing.

''He has an extreme amount of gas,'' coach Aaron Mauger said.

''We're really excited about that and seeing him out there. He is a guy who has really grown in our environment over the last year and a-half and we have some good competition out wide.

''We wanted to give him that opportunity and see what he has got. I'm sure he will perform well ... and start pushing others for more regular starts.''

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