Friday 20 October 2017

Nacewa and Gibson-Park to return to South Africa as Cullen looks to move on from visa issue

Isa Nacewa and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park were denied entry to the country and forced to return to Europe.
Isa Nacewa and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park were denied entry to the country and forced to return to Europe.

Ruaidhri O’Connor in Port Elizabeth

Leinster coach Leo Cullen has revealed that neither Isa Nacewa or Jamison Gibson-Park were scheduled to start tomorrow’s Guinness PRO14 clash with the Southern Kings as the province confirmed the duo will return to South Africa on Sunday.

Both New Zealanders were turned away at immigration in Johannesburg on Tuesday as a result of not having the correct visas and had to return to Dublin.

Speaking at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth where the team trained this lunch-time, the coach lamented the oversight but said his team would get on with things regardless.

“From our end, it's all new travelling to South Africa with a group so the logistics around that... the issue from us is that we hadn't applied for the visa, we got on our flight, landed in Johannesburg, the two players who were both travelling on New Zealand passports, it was discovered then,” he said.

“Isa Nacewa and Jamison Gibson-Park had travelled with Super Rugby teams in the past and not needed Visas and not needed Visas. They'd been asked about that, but it changed recently, it's an oversight on our part.

“The players have travelled back to Ireland, got the visas sorted and they're ready to travel back out and will meet back up with us on Sunday when we get back to Cape Town.

“They'll be back involved and ready for preparations for next week's game.”

Cullen confirmed that neither player was in line to start and said disruption to team preparations was kept to a minimum.

“It is unfortunate, we named a starting XV on the Tuesday before we left and neither player was in the starting XV, so in terms of disruption it's minimal.

“It didn't really affect the group. At the airport, the group just moved on off to the hotel and started our preparations.

For (director of rugby operations) Guy (Easterby) and (operations manager) Ronan (O'Donnell), they stayed with the lads and tried to get it sorted.

“The rest of the lads were in recovery mode from the flight, getting settled in in Jo'burg and going about our normal business.

“We prepared well Monday and Tuesday back in UCD, getting the flight in two different groups from Paris.

“It's just the effects of sleeping on a plane, basically, but the lads slept well and there were no major issues.

“Wednesday was about recovery in Jo'burg, it's altitude there and that was a different stimulus for the players, trained on Thursday and came down here last night.

“Everyone's settled in well, it's great to be here. It's such a different challenge, it's a great experience for guys.”

Scrum-half Luke McGrath said the squad was fully focused on the league clash with the Kings and enjoying the experience of touring South Africa.

“We've had two good wins so far, but this is a tough test away in South Africa,” he said.

“The Kings, we know they'll have a backlash from last week. We watched them in Connacht and their second-half was pretty impressive.

“Probably our first-half last week let us down, so we'll be looking to fix a few things.

“We're all looking forward to a tough test tomorrow. It's going to be a tight, well-contested game.”

Cullen named his side to face the Kings earlier today, with Rhys Ruddock deputising for Nacewa as captain.

Jordi Murphy returns from his long-term injury lay-off, but the game has come too soon for Fergus McFadden while Max Deegan was also not risked due to a niggle.

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