Wednesday 18 September 2019

Isa Nacewa reveals the new nickname Johnny Sexton has bestowed upon him after South Africa trip

Leinster's Isa Nacewa. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster's Isa Nacewa. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

One would be forgiven for thinking that Isa Nacewa would want to banish the memories of Leinster's recent eventful trip to South Africa, yet the skipper can see plenty of positives from it.

After initially being refused entry to the country after running into visa issues, Nacewa missed the win over the Kings and after returning to rejoin the squad, he lasted just 16 minutes before being forced off with a calf injury against the Cheetahs.

All in all, it was a long way to travel (twice) to play 16 minutes of rugby but off the field especially, Nacewa believes that the benefits of the mini-tour will be felt later in the season.

"It was bizarre that it was actually happening," Nacewa reflected.

"I was travelling with Jamison Gibson-Park who is one of the cruisiest guys around. We just kicked back and as long as we had strong Wi-Fi we just got on with it.

"It is what it is and it was what it was. We got back there and just joined up with the team as quick as possible.

"I love South Africa. It was great. I never thought I would be back there playing, once I actually got in the country!

"I love Cape Town, the time away with the team - 12 days, you just don't get that in the old competition. You don't get that time to mingle as mates.

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"We had a good young crew down there and they keep you on your toes. They do things differently but as a whole, it was an awesome trip away.

"From a playing point of view, you don't get 12 days away as a group in season. You get a day off and you don't have a chance as a group to do some activities. It was an awesome time.

"A few of those bonding moments, we'll look back on and remember. It was a lot guys' first time going to South Africa so a lot of it was new. But we just trained away and got on with it."


The inevitable slagging with his team-mates followed and Nacewa revealed the extent of it:

"I got a visa sign on my locker. Johnny Sexton thinks it's my new nickname.

"But I think the Lions (Scott Baldwin) story might have stolen the show!"

Nacewa was coy about putting an exact date on his return but he insisted that he was progressing well.

Tomorrow's eagerly-anticipated clash against Munster will lead into next week's return of the Champions Cup action and Nacewa believes it is an ideal game to step up their intensity levels.

"It's always one of my favourite games," he enthused.

"You know it's going to be hard, going to be tough, you know you've got to be on your game and it brings out the best in both teams.

"The fans really add to the occasion: the blue and red armies walking up, the chills you get on the bus driving up to the game.

"That's why we play the game and that's why the Leinster-Munster battle is so famous around the world. I love the game, I love the Leinster-Munster battle, there are definite nerves from the start of the week and I always want to be involved in it.

"We tend to look at ourselves first and only having the squad back together for the last week, we're trying to build momentum week on week. That is the only thing we can control.

"There is so much competition in our squad and everyone wants to be involved at the weekend, firstly Munster ad then into the Champions Cup.

"It does wonders for the club, having so much competition. It probably keeps us on our toes even more."

Montpellier lie in wait next week and Nacewa wasn't sugar-coating the scale of the challenge that Leinster have on their hands to get out of the pool.

"It is one hell of a tough pool," he added.

"(Louis) Picamoles, Ruan Pienaar, Aaron Cruden, Vern Cotter. Those guys alone in Montpellier are just world-class recruits. We just take one week at a time. It is all we can do as players."



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