'If you don't show up at Leinster, another lad will'
The Big Interview: Ian Nagle
The last time we sat down across from Leinster lock Ian Nagle he was motoring along nicely in his reincarnation as a professional rugby player. He had a first start for Leinster under his belt, had made his full European debut in any colour and was displaying all the characteristics that had persuaded Leinster Rugby head coach Leo Cullen to take a punt on the former Munster man who had taken a break from rugby and had relocated to Cambridge University.
Today though there is a big gap on his playing CV going back all the way to St Stephen's Day and a trip to Thomond Park. The gap is a result of misfortune, bad timing and a ferociously competitive Leinster squad.
"I picked up a concussion in the Munster game and that sidelined me for a week or so which ultimately ruled me out of the running for the Ulster game and I suppose when you look at the run the team has gone on since then, the lads that came in grabbed their chance and I missed out on that chance against Ulster to lay down a marker for a Champions Cup role.
"It's frustrating but the flip of that is that I have been very fortunate with injures so far this season. I had a shoulder injury alright at the start of the season but after that as you said I had been playing regularly and enjoying every minute of it. The last few weeks just reinforce how competitive an environment Leinster is."
A quick look through the Leinster roster reinforces that view with Irish internationals Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy and Rhys Ruddock all available as second-row options with Mick Kearney, Ross Molony and Ian himself also in the mix. That's before you mention former Ireland U-20 captain James Ryan who is currently out injured. Not an easy task for coach Cullen and Co.
"No it isn't but that's part of what appealed to me about here in the first place. The environment. The opportunity to test yourself against players of this quality day in, day out. If you don't show up, another lad will and that's the type of drive you need to succeed as a club."
It's fair to say he's enjoying being back in a rugby environment and in with Leinster?
"I am, definitely. Leinster is a very easy club to fit in to for a start. It's very easy to buy into what the club is about, the culture, the ambition, the drive. That goes for everyone in here. The staff, the coaches, the supporters and it rubs off on the players and you want to make a difference. Represent the jersey to the best of your abilities. There is definitely a synergy between us all."
Being back in the rugby environment though has impacted on one element in his life and that is his engagement to Sally. As for the big day? Well, where most can pick and choose a date as they please, there aren't many windows for those that choose this path.
"It's only really June isn't it! June this year. Or 2018! Or 2019! The planning has started already though so it's full steam ahead. Sally is doing most of it I've to admit but I'll play my part in good time!"
Wise words. Before June though - whenever that June will be! - there is the prospect of big days on the pitch too and while anxious not to get too carried away, the end of season run-in is looming large.
"Looking too far ahead can bite you in a bad way. Even within the four walls of Leinster if you lose track of this week and what your role is, as I said earlier, you leave the door open for someone else.
"Every one of us has to be focused on Treviso on Sunday. We've had a few weeks off and this is the chance to get back up and running and that has to be our singular purpose this week.
"But there is a quiet excitement about the place. In the back of everyone's minds there is Wasps in the Champions Cup on the first weekend in April. You wouldn't be human if it wasn't there. There is a real sense that we are building, coaches and players, and that there is a good mix of youth and experience in terms of players to achieve something.
"There is absolutely nothing won yet and no guarantees but we've a massive date against Wasps in the Aviva Stadium and at the moment we are going well in the Guinness Pro12 so hopefully we can keep going on both fronts.
"I'm loving every minute of it. It's the very reason I came back to rugby."
Cork native Nagle has spoken previously of the support from Munster, and from Anthony Foley in particular, when he announced his decision to return. They were naturally interested in his services but Leinster was his destination of choice.
His former club are currently four points ahead of Leinster in the Pro12 table and in light of all they have been through, it's a remarkable achievement.
"It is. I would be in touch with a lot of the lads over the years and I think there was a sense that it just wasn't clicking but it definitely has in the last few months. Their last Pro12 loss was against us in the Aviva so that's however many months ago now.
"Axel's passing was extremely tough on them all but I think they have been exemplary in how they have gone about their rugby and all other aspects since his passing. They are on top of the Pro12 at the moment on merit and it's up to the rest of us to close that gap. Hopefully we'll get another big day against them before the season is out."
For that to happen Leinster need to close the gap at the top of the Pro12 championship. Four points behind top spot at the moment, three points behind second. By the time Leinster play on Sunday, they could be eight or even nine points behind that top spot. They have to win on Sunday.
"When we played Treviso at the start of the season in the RDS it took us the guts of 60 minutes to really to get a hold of the game and by and large that is when they fade in most games.
"But what they have been all season is strong at home. They put 28 points on Glasgow only a few weeks ago and they were unlucky to lose that one so the danger is going over there over-confident. We feel that if we focus on our own performance we won't be far off and that will be a good start as we look to put together a strong block of four games during this Six Nations window.
"There is so much movement at the top of the table, you have to be ready to capitalise."
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