Monday 23 September 2019

Isa Nacewa: This Leinster team is now in a unique group... the worst home loss in European Cup history

The tragedy in Paris and then Jonah Lomu's untimely death has put any on-field problems in perspective

Isa Nacewa
Isa Nacewa
Isa Nacewa
Leinster's Rob Kearney, left, and Isa Nacewa watch squad training. Rosemount, UCD, Belfield, Dublin

Isa Nacewa

What a roller coaster week it has been...I honestly don't know where to begin. Personal or professional issues like injuries and games lost are mere footnotes in the context of what has gone on so I really don't know where to start or where to go with this week's piece. So bear with me!

Rugby really does pale into insignificance with all the tragedy in Paris. When it all broke your mind immediately is of those directly affected in the Stade de France or in the Bataclan or in that restaurant. And then very quickly you start to think of former-colleagues and family or friends and it is never nice to hear of friends or family that were close to it all.

Heinke van der Merwe, for example, a former Leinster player, lives in Paris with his young family, and your heart goes out to them. You still have to try to go about your daily business. School runs, going to the shops. Just ordinary stuff. But now with a dark cloud hanging over them. I thought of them and was glad to hear they are all ok.

Obviously that also puts many rugby and sporting fixtures in doubt and rightly so. Huge credit must go to the French teams in rugby and soccer that fulfilled fixtures, for lining out in very difficult circumstances.

Credit too to the Leinster and Wasps supporters who observed a very dignified minute's silence before the game. It can't have been easy for our referee Mathieu Raynal and his team of French officials either but it was all handled with the class you'd expect.

Of course rather than standing there in the midst of it, I was sitting in the Anglesea Stand.

I went from being on the verge of leading Leinster out in what would have been my debut captaincy in Europe, to sitting in the stands feeling helpless after failing a last-minute fitness test.

We had a great few days camp off-site down in Wicklow at Druids Glen and then training in Greystones RFC and everything was going to plan until I jarred my knee in training. Not bad enough to rule me out but certainly bad enough to mean I had to take the weight off it for the week and hope it came through the Captain's Run. It didn't.

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It's always hard watching from the stands. But doubly so when all my efforts mentally and physically were put into getting to this point and leading Leinster out. And then it was taken away. So what went wrong against Wasps?

It's difficult in some ways because I wasn't in the thick of it but first up, no, we didn't perform. As a result we are now members of a unique group; the worst home loss in European Cup history for Leinster. If we could hand in our membership card somewhere and be rid of it we would, but we can't. So what now?

It's always hard to front up after a performance like that but Leo and the coaches have ensured we take some key learnings out of the weekend and that we bring a new energy to this week's trip to Bath.

The reality is were weren't up to standard against Wasps and it wasn't good enough for this competition or for this club. We have to look at what we can control and get on with the job.

And then another bolt from the blue.

It is definitely hard to think about let alone write about the passing of Jonah Lomu. He was my idol growing up and I was absolutely honoured and lucky enough to have played with and against him. I can still picture him running over Mike Catt at the 1995 World Cup.

Mike went on to win a World Cup medal with England but I think some will remember him as much for that try as for anything else he did in a stellar career!

The clip of Jonah running at/through/over Mike was on nearly every highlight reel you would have seen during the week. But don't focus on Mike. Focus on how good a player Jonah was.

Outside of that, he had so much time for people inside and outside of rugby circles.

He was truly rugby's first global superstar. He will be dearly missed in New Zealand and around the globe. Thoughts go out to all his family and his young children.

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