Thursday 22 August 2019

Nadolo: I'm really pumped to be coming up against a former Cork hurler

Giant Fijian winger follows GAA and is relishing his first clash with Ireland

Nadolo comes up against Ireland for the first time later today and having been beaten in the capital last month, he is eager to set the record straight at the Aviva Stadium
Nadolo comes up against Ireland for the first time later today and having been beaten in the capital last month, he is eager to set the record straight at the Aviva Stadium
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Nemani Nadolo isn't bluffing when he talks about his passion for the GAA. Proof? He has a genuine interest in the man who he will come up against this evening.

"I've heard that he is a former Cork hurler, I'm really pumped for it."

Making his first international start, Darren Sweetnam will hardly have faced a tougher task in his fledgling career as he attempts to keep the gargantuan winger quiet, and he can thank a fellow Corkman for Nadolo knowing all about his route to get here.

Nadolo's love affair with the GAA began last year in Montpellier when Tomás O'Leary spoke about both sports and his time with the Rebels before, like Sweetnam, he turned to rugby.

It culminated in Nadolo taking to Instagram in May and posting the photo on the right, along with the caption: "I'm one step closer to becoming @corkgaacounty player?.. finally got my cork jersey. By the time I play @toldandco will be jersey sponsor. Cheers to Peter Kelly for the jersey he wore in the 2006 all Ireland hurling final! #RebelsAbú #FijiRebels #ErinsOwn"

O'Leary spent a year with the French side where he struck up a friendship with Nadolo who is in his second season with the club.

"It's just from Tomás," the Fijian international says, explaining his interest in GAA.

"He exposed me to a few of your sports over here - hurling and GAA.

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"I have fallen in love with them. I was following it up until Dublin won. Three-in-a-row for them so good luck and happy days to them.

"I guess I always tell people that the Irish are like the Fijians. We're laid back, good people. The only difference is that the weather is a bit better than the weather here!"

Having terrorised the Leinster defence during the Champions Cup clash in the RDS a month ago, Nadolo is back in Dublin, looking to cause more damage.

The 29-year-old's Twitter bio reads: "possibly the heaviest back in world rugby". You'd be doing well to find another playing at this level.

At 6ft 5in, Nadolo hits the scales at 130kg. Give him the ball and inevitably a trail of destruction follows.

His strike-rate is as frightening as the prospect of trying to tackle him but Ireland must find a way to nullify his threat this evening.

For his last three clubs, Nadolo's record reads: Green Rockets, 55 tries in 51 games; Crusaders, 37 tries in 40 games; Montpellier, 28 tries in 32 games. With Fiji, he has racked up 19 in 26 caps. Not too shabby.

"I'm not the lightest of the wingers," he smiles, offering a contender for understatement of the year.

"Over the years, I've just worked on my power. I have finally discovered that I am a big boy. I'm never going to beat guys for pace so my way through is power.

"I've just really worked on that and gaining confidence from running over... well not running over, but running into contact!

"That doesn't change this week. I've just got take the stuff in that I have been working on with my club. It's something that I am really looking forward to."

Comparisons with the late Jonah Lomu are often made and while Nadolo is honoured to be spoken about in the same breath as arguably the greatest player to ever play the sport, he doesn't get caught up in that kind of gushing praise.

"If you're a big winger, I guess you are always going to be compared to the big fella, rest his soul. But if I just keep worrying about being Nemani Nadolo and being me, I think everything will be fine."

Nadolo comes up against Ireland for the first time later today and having been beaten in the capital last month, he is eager to set the record straight at the Aviva Stadium.

"To get an opportunity to play against Ireland is big," he adds.

"It's something I have always wanted to do. It's something on my bucket list.

"I've always wanted to play Ireland and I've got the chance now.

"Ever since I was young, I used to watch Ireland on TV at Lansdowne Road so to play against them there will be awesome."

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