Isa Nacewa, the 29 years old, Auckland-born New Zealander of Fijian descent, has proved to be one of Leinster Rugby’s outstanding players since joining the province. On Sunday he spoke at length on Setanta Sports iTalkSport programme and here we bring you some of his thoughts on his time with Leinster, the impact of Joe Schmidt and the IRFU policy on foreign players.
On missing Friday night’s win over Ulster in Belfast:
“It’s always a tough place to go, Ravenhill. Getting through that match with no injuries is a huge boost . Having nearly everyone on board to be selected this is a good place to be at this end of the season. I was just rested, given a week off.
I think I missed one match last year but the guys have been giving me a bit of stick about missing four this year! Especially two before Christmas. It’s a good chance to have a rest before the end of the season.
Looking ahead to Clermont in Heineken Cup semi-finals:
Clermont are one of the biggest, strongest and most physical rugby teams you’ll come up against. It was a hard task last year doing it back to back and now we’ve got to go over to Bordeaux and give it a good crack.
Clermont’s former Leinster second row Nathan Hines says he can’t remember Leinster’s lineout calls – do you believe him?
Hinesy’s winding everyone up ! He remembers everyone. I’d say he’s one of the most annoying players to play against. You often have a team huddle and he’ll be wandering off, figuring out everyone’s calls. He’s a pretty smart player and a huge loss to us.
Hinesy was a huge centre point for the forwards last season. I knew he wanted to stay and his family were happy here but at the end of the day he had to move on. It’s a bit ironic that we’re going to be coming up against him next week.
Hines’ replacement Brad Thorn – How do you rate him?:
Brad’s going on 48 but he’s still ‘hands down’ the strongest in our squad! He’s the most enthusiastic guy I’ve met in a long time in rugby circles. He’s the first out there at training and the last to leave. His enthusiasm to help the younger guys pull through is an awesome thing to have.
About the IRFU foreign player proposals:
It’s a bit up in the air at the moment. I think they’ve (IRFU) let their guard down a bit. But at the end of the day they’re rules and if they decide to employ them, I think it will change a lot of the structure of some of the teams out there.
The rules could mean you have to leave Leinster ?:
Definitely something I don’t want to do. I’ve got a young family here that were born in Dublin and have grown up in Ireland. We hope the rules get down a bit but at the end of the day if I’m forced to leave it’s just something I’ll have to deal with.
On the impact of Joe Schmidt:
He blew me off guard a bit (after arriving at Leinster). My time in Auckland with him, he was an assistant coach and a backs coach, I think he could’ve given a lot more there but he probably didn’t give his full presence. Coming from France to Dublin, he caught everyone off guard and everyone’s pretty much scared of him come Monday morning.
His presence and what he expects from players, he’s brought out the best in everyone there. In our Monday review sessions, there’s just absolutely no hiding. You can’t be lazy and you can’t be hiding on the pitch because he’ll pick it out and he’ll put it up there for everyone to see. I think he’s created an environment where you don’t want to be slacking off during a match because it’ll be up there on a Monday morning and it’s got the best out of all of us.
Joe’s just given us the license to play but a responsibility to go with that, it just seems to have worked for us since he got here. Even from what Cheika was doing at the end of his time with Leinster, it’s all sort of rolled into one. He’s focused a lot on our skill work and it seems to be getting us by.
Schmidt’s hand-shake policy at Leinster!
Coming into the day, it’s such a big squad you could spend half the day or most of the day not talking to some of your team mates so it’s just a little thing we have, everyone has to acknowledge everyone in the morning and shake hands and say hello.
Would Nacewa have played for Ireland?
For sure. I’ve got huge respect for all the guys that I play with and all the guys in the Irish team. It would have been a good opportunity but it’s not how things turned out”.
One thing is for sure and that is that Isakeli Nacewa would be a great loss to Leinster and to rugby in Ireland if any IRFU policy changes mean he has to depart these shores.Equally what a great shame that Nacewa’s only World Cup appearance was as a two minutes replacement for Fiji in the 2003 competition. Those two minutes against Scotland represents his entire international career.
At the time he had no idea this would render him ineligible to ever play for New Zealand and he has never played for Fiji again though the Fiji Rugby Union did say that he declined an invitation – ‘due to family commitments ‘ – to take part in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
He was included by the famous Barbarians against Wales,in 2011, at full back, scoring two tries. including the last minute match winning score .
Leinster Rugby’s Player of the Year in 2011, he was also awarded a similar honour by the Irish Rugby Union Players Association (IRUPA) and named as full back on the then ‘Magners League Dream Team’ that year. Great player, Isa Nacewa.
You can watch ‘ iTalkSport’ on Setanta Sports on Sunday mornings