FORMER Hawick forward Scott MacLeod admitted this week closing the door on his country was one of the toughest decisions of his life.
But he said the opportunity to sign for Japanese outfit Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers was simply too good to turn down.
The 32-year-old Edinburgh lock has been capped for Scotland 24 times, but his last appearance came from the bench in this season’s 6 Nations defeat to Wales.
His decision to pen a two-year deal with the Steelers has all but certainly ruled him out of this year’s World Cup in New Zealand.
Scott told the Hawick News: “The hardest thing was making myself unavailable for Scotland.
“I feel that I’m still playing well enough to merit a place in the Scotland team. There have been so many times when selections haven’t gone my way. I’ve been there or thereabouts but I’ve not been getting in.
“Things haven’t gone my way and that’s fair enough. There’s a lot of other boys who are bringing something different to the table and that’s fine.
“The decision was to pass up this opportunity in the hope of making the World Cup squad, which wasn’t certain. That’s what it came down to.
“I could have gone out there if I’d made the squad in October but that would have been hard to go into that environment if I didn’t speak the language, know the boys, the way they play or the codes they use.
“This gives me the best opportunity to perform for Kobe Steelers.”
The former Border Reivers and Llaneli Scarlets player made his Scotland debut in 2004 against Australia and went on to feature against New Zealand as well as at the World Cup in France in 2007.
He also played a pivotal role in Scotland’s success in South America against Argentina last year, started against England twice, defeated the Auld Enemy twice and was part of the side that defeated world champions South Africa at Murrayfield in October.
He added: “My last start came in the win over South Africa and if that is to be my very last I think, standing there singing the national anthem with Nikki Walker beside me, that will be a very fond memory.
“Nikki is one of my best mates and has been there when we were at Hawick, the Borders, down in Wales and playing for Scotland.
“If that’s me finished then it was a nice way to go.”
After knocking back offers from Edinburgh, the English Premiership and France, Scott is now looking forward to a new challenge in the Far East along with wife Adele and children Braedyn and Hudson.
“I just really fancied it. I fancied a change, a chance to learn a different language and experience a different lifestyle,” he said.
“They are probably the best supported team in Japan. They’ve got a great set up and they’re wanting to win the league so it was an opportunity I jumped at really.
“Myself and Adele spoke about it so many times, about what it would mean for the kids and for us as a family.
“I’ve always been keen to spend some time in a foreign country, to experience a different culture and a different way of life.”
And he hasn’t been deterred by the recent devastating earthquake and tsunami, which rocked the country, killing more than 18,000 people.
He added: “Fortunately for us Kobe has been unaffected and everything is okay. I would never put my kids at risk. I’ve been in close contact with the chief executive and the manager on a regular basis.”