A RISING rugby star who grew up in Hereford has secured a move to one of the leading clubs in the sport.

Joshua McNally will play for Bath next season, a move which he hopes will further his career and bring him closer to home.

The 28-year-old who can play second row or flanker is currently captain of leading Championship side London Irish, who also booked their spot in the league cup final at the weekend following a 22-8 semi-final victory over Yorkshire Carnegie.

McNally has been with Irish since January 2017 when he was released by the Royal Air Force to pursue his rugby career.

“We have had a good season this year and still in the cup competition so there is no reason why we can’t win both," said McNally.

“We are in the Championship this year and are top of the league so it has been a good year of rebuilding after losing a couple of players.

“The Championship is where I cut my teeth so I chose to stay (after last season's relegation) and use my experience as it’s a tough league and is very physical.

“I was made captain as I had experience of the league to help lead them through the league.

"Even though I’m leaving the coaches think I can still fulfil that role until the end of the season.

“We are in a strong position and my short term goal is to get them back into the Premiership. I played well last year and have continued that form this year."

London Irish currently sit nine points clear at the top of the Championship having won 14 out of 15 league games.

Despite looking on course for a Premiership return McNally said the chance to play for a team closer to his Herefordshire roots was a factor in his decision to sign for Bath.

“Bath came calling and I would love to play rugby at that level of the Premiership while the club is also a lot closer to Hereford and family," added McNally.

“With a young family we feel isolated in London and it is a home away from home in Richmond.

“So I want to be closer to family which is something I am really excited about and coming back to the West Country.

“I have enjoyed my time here (at London Irish) but it always felt like it was somewhere where I was playing rugby for the short term.

“Now I have got an opportunity to move closer to home with Bath, it was the perfect opportunity. It’s a decision I’ve not taken lightly as London Irish have got an excellent record and are building something.

“They will be very good competition in the Premiership next season but I want to try and push myself.

“I want to move myself closer to that top half of the Premiership and the European Rugby Champions Cup. I want to push myself and see where I stand and grow as a player.

“Bath ticks a lot of boxes while being closer to home.”

McNally's performances in the Premiership last season caught the eye of England head coach Eddie Jones, earning a call up to the England training squad for the May 2018 clash with the Barbarians.

Despite not making the final team McNally said it is an opportunity he wants to repeat again in the future.

“I didn’t see it coming but knew I was playing well and was enjoying most of my rugby last season," McNally added.

“I know I have to be at the top level of the Premiership to get a look in again and not in the Championship or bottom half of the Premiership.

“It was an opportunity I can strive for and that I think about every day.”

McNally first started playing rugby at Luctonians from the age of 13 years old, but it wasn't until he joined the Royal Air Force that he started taking the sport more seriously.

McNally added: “I grew up playing for Luctonians but didn’t play rugby seriously and it was more a thing I did at the weekend.

“I joined the RAF at 18 and it was then that my rugby took off. I was playing in the Air Force system for their under-23 side and then senior team.

“It was from then I got asked to play for Henley Hawks in National Two before London Welsh gave me the opportunity to play Premiership rugby.”

McNally was allowed to peruse his professional rugby dream while on release from the RAF but still remains a part of the service.

“I’m still in the RAF and speak to them on a weekly basis about how things are going," he added.

"They are curious how my potential is being achieved and are a big part of how I got to this stage of rugby.

“I still play in the military games at the end of the year and keep my hand in with coaching and recruitment.

“Once I’ve finished my rugby career I will go back into the Air Force and continue my career, which has been ticking along while I’ve not been there.

“I didn’t join the RAF to play rugby, but it was an opportunity they gave me.”