Connacht prop Paddy McAllister will make an emotional return to South Africa for the first time in 11 years to take on the Southern Kings.
Andy Friend’s men suffered a hammering in Edinburgh last weekend and must bounce back at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.
But for the 30-year-old loosehead, it’s an emotional return to the continent where he grew up, and his parents still live.
McAllister’s grandparents moved to Congo in the 1950s after World War II, and he spent his early years there too.
He eventually moved to Armagh as a 14-year-old and his love of rugby took off. Now nine games into his Connacht career he gets to return to the Southern Hemisphere.
“I cannot wait,” said McAllister.
“I was on my phone to my granddad yesterday, he had spent 60 years in the Congo, he is in a nursing home in Belfast. I said to him we were going to Africa and he was very excited.
McAllister attended the Royal School Armagh before joining up with the Ulster academy, and hooking up with their senior ranks.
He went through the age-grades with Ireland, representing the U-20s at a Junior World Championship alongside Peter O’Mahony and Conor Murray in 2009.
McAllister then tried his hand at French rugby where he joined Jeremy Davidson’s Aurillac in the Pro D2 before David Humphreys and Gloucester came calling. Connacht head coach Andy Friend signed him up before the start of 2019-20.
And despite a dreadful knee injury against Dragons earlier in the campaign, McAllister, his wife Deborah and children, Max and Lucy, have never looked back.
“Galway was always very fond to us before we even came,” said McAllister.
“The chance to call it home right now, playing with a good club like this, a good community. I am really enjoying it.
“Coming from Gloucester, massively different leagues. There is a lot more money. There might be a bit more egos in the English league. Coming here there is a lot hard work and grind during the week, a lot more competition.
“When I was speaking to the coaches before I signed, I have got experience, I have played in the Pro D2 as well. I have played in different leagues. I have got a good number of games under me.
“Just trying to add value where I can. Sometimes you don’t have to talk too much but trying to say something which makes sense from past experiences and just trying to help the young guys because this is a very young squad.
“I enjoy helping the academy guys. I have been through all the stages they have been through.
“I am just looking forward to some people starting to have kids now so they can share the no sleep.”