Tuesday 12 December 2017

Isa Nacewa: There's nowhere I'd rather be than Edinburgh tonight

I've been setting personal bests in the gym and I can't wait for game - even if I've never heard of Meggetland

‘There’s is nowhere else I would rather be than Edinburgh this evening,’ says Isa Nacewa
‘There’s is nowhere else I would rather be than Edinburgh this evening,’ says Isa Nacewa
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen looks on during squad training

Isa Nacewa

First week of September. Where has the summer gone? And after some of the rain that has hit Leinster HQ the last few weeks you would wonder if it was ever here at all! With September comes the usual chaos for those of us with young families, and indeed for those without families. Schools are back. So that means traffic is back.

But for us players and for you supporters, it also means that Guinness Pro12 rugby is back.

Before we throw ourselves into September, what about August and the last two weekends? For me personally? I really couldn't be happier. A win over Ulster, a win over Moseley and four PBs in the gym!

That all counts for nothing of course as now the real points are up for grabs and the PBs that matter will hopefully be achieved on the pitch.

As Leo has preached for the last eight weeks, we have been building for Edinburgh. Nothing else on our minds but Edinburgh. And as I write this, that remains the case.

Sure we can take confidence out of the last two weeks - winning builds confidence - but we are under no illusions either. They are a means to an end for us and the opposition. Great opportunity to get a hit-out and get patterns going, but they are pre-season games.

The fact that we have used 40 players over the two pre-season games shows the depth Leinster have. There were definitely a good few nervous bodies in the room as Leo read out the 23 for this week against Edinburgh.

Some tough calls were made, but as a whole squad we have trained well together all week. The non-starters have pushed the starting XV on attack and defence.

The intensity, nerves and excitement are definitely higher this week, as they should be.

Edinburgh are a class side who narrowly lost the Challenge Cup final last season. As much as the focus in Scotland was on Glasgow winning the Pro12, Edinburgh went about their business efficiently and quietly and slipped under the radar in ways.

They were the first Scottish side to reach a European final and that is a huge credit to Alan Solomons and his players. They are going to be a massive step up to what we have faced the last two weekends and in particular in Meggetland, where we will play the game.

To be honest I had never heard of this ground until last week. We would all have some experience at playing at Murrayfield - where the lads played Edinburgh last season - but this is new territory. Yes every game is played on a pitch but knowing your home ground and the nuances is what makes home advantage important. Having some level of familiarity or a feel for an away ground gives you some insight as the travelling side. We have none of that for Meggetland so it's another element to contend with.

Back to HQ, it's been an odd week. Not an hour went by that I didn't hear the number 31 being mysteriously talked about. The magic number had taken on a life of its own and was like a mythical being this week. Whether it was friend or foe depended on your perspective!

Tough calls have been made in Joe Schmidt's final RWC squad and 16 Leinster players will board the plane to London. We have spoken all along about being without 24 players for this period on the basis of the belief we have in the lads. In the end it was 17, with Zane Kirchner in the South Africa squad and the Irish 16.

Obviously there were the unlucky few that came back. Being selfish, it is great for us to have the services of Fergus McFadden, Isaac Boss and Michael Bent back as it adds some real experience to our 23, but of course you feel for them.

Personally I have been waiting all year for this game. There's is nowhere else I would rather be than Edinburgh this evening. It was great to get a run-out against Ulster and Moseley but this is the real deal. To be pulling on the Leinster jersey again and play for this amazing club with this group of players there will be no better feeling.

Fingers crossed now we get the result Leo and his new coaching team so dearly want!

Irish Independent

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