| 9.7°C Dublin

Nacewa: I tried to guide Leon MacDonald to Leinster


Leinster's Isa Nacewa. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Isa Nacewa. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Isa Nacewa. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

It was Isa Nacewa who fingered Joe Schmidt as the one man who could take Leinster to the next level back in 2010.

He would seem a logical go-to source to find the successor to Matt O'Connor.

And he tried.

"I did my best to guide them to the one person that I would recommend," he said.

"I've got massive respect for Leon MacDonald, his theories of coaching, how he does things and what he's done with the Tasman Makos and the (New Zealand) U20s.

"His brand of rugby is really attractive. I've got massive respect for him. It is just not on his agenda at the moment.

"He's got the next couple of years planned out and coaching Leinster, or being overseas, isn't one of them."

And there you have it.

The former Rolls Royce All Black full-back MacDonald is a wanted man in New Zealand.

He turned out 46 times for the All Blacks between 2000 and 2008 and has already turned down the offer of assistant coach from his own Canterbury Crusaders.

He was confirmed as the Tasman Makos head coach three weeks ago after spending five seasons as an assistant.


MacDonald has a number of business interests in his home town Blenheim and is committed to building them up before he returns to the game. He was never likely to leave it all behind for Leinster.

Nacewa has had the province in his heart for some time now.

He said he wouldn't play for another club. He didn't.

He said the only club he would ever play for again would be Leinster. Hey presto. He's here. Why come back?

"I love the challenge," he said. "I always said, even when I left, Leinster would be the only club that I would play for and I still feel that way. I love everything about this club."

"When we started to talk about coming back here, I got excited about it. I followed them all of last year and what a hard way to go out of Europe.

"I am remember losing against Toulouse over there and I spent the whole of the summer in the sun thinking about that match. It is going to spur the guys on to bring back big motivation.

"Yeah, they've got Rugby World Cup in front of them. But, they will come back eager to go one better than last year."

The sporting picture book is choked up with comeback failures.

What about Nacewa's legacy? "I don't really think like that. You are part of a legacy at the time.

"I don't care if I fail. I've just got to try. If I don't try, that's failing in my mind. Yeah, you can be part of a legacy. But, wouldn't you want to write an even better one."

He is not concerned at the deterioration in his body or his skills in the two seasons he has passed as the Auckland Blues Mental Skills coach.

"It doesn't feel like two years," he offered in sincerity.

"I sort of walked out of the Leinster environment and straight into the Blues set-up .

"I didn't ever really leave rugby circles. I've been passing and kicking a ball for the last 18 months.

"It definitely doesn't feel like I've been retired because I haven't sat around and done nothing.

"I know my body pretty well. I wouldn't come back unless I knew I could go beyond the levels that I finished at."

The Blues must have felt the sting of a jilted lover as Nacewa spurned their advances to play two seasons ago only to return to his greatest love.

"I said I'd only ever play for Leinster. I wasn't motivated to play for anyone else."

Moreover, he wants to play until his body gives way.

"As long as Leinster want me," he said.

"I've moved the whole family back here. We love Dublin. We love Ireland. We'll stay for however long we can."