Tuesday 21 November 2017

Nacewa keen to avoid repeat of Lyon ill-discipline

Isa Nacewa. Photo: Sportsfile
Isa Nacewa. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Isa Nacewa has plenty of regrets about losing to Clermont Auvergne in Lyon last month and his own role in the defeat.

There haven't been too many mis-steps from the Aucklander during his storied Leinster career, but his pumped-up approach to the first 10 minutes saw him go over the top and make uncharacteristic errors that cost his team, summed up by a yellow card he now describes as "dumb" for a tug on David Strettle's shirt.

The Leinster captain has plenty of credit in the bank and has led by example all season, so fans will forgive him a rare off-day - but he is determined to avoid a repeat when his side return to the semi-final stage next week when they welcome Scarlets to the RDS for the Guinness PRO12 play-offs.

"It is pretty tough standing on the halfway in Lyon in a huddle, knowing that you've just fallen short of making it to the final," he reflected. "I've found it worse losing in a semi-final than a final.

"But it was a pretty tight huddle out there. We had to take learnings from that game to really kick on. The guys that played that game, and even the guys that didn't, will have been hurting. We don't want that feeling again."

Nacewa reckons Leinster will look to temper their build-up in an attempt to avoid arriving overly revved up at kick-off this time around.

"Maybe blocking the emotion out and focusing on your own performance could have done us better at the start of the game," he replied when asked if there was anything he had learnt.

"Not getting a dumb yellow card at the start of the game might have helped the situation.

"It is about your performance. We didn't start well against Clermont and that is one thing we have to remedy.

"It is an accumulation of certain aspects of our game that just didn't go right. For a team like Clermont, you can't let that happen.

"We knew what they were going to throw at us. We knew what the crowd were going to throw at us. We knew the fast start that they like.

"We compounded error upon error and let them into the game. By half-time, we hadn't actually played much. We realised that and we went back to focusing on what we could control, how we could play the ball, run the ball.

"We played our brand of rugby and it got us right back into the game. The learnings from that is to focus on our own performance and how we address certain areas of the game early on."

Garry Ringrose lit up the European semi-final stage with his second-half wonder-try, but has to contend with his own early difficulties as he continues to grow up on the biggest stage.


On Friday week, he will face a Lions Test starter in Jonathan Davies, and Nacewa reckons he is ready.

"I have the luxury of playing with Garry," he said.

"They are two guys who thrive on big match-ups. Garry takes everything in his stride. He tries to be better week in, week out. He will see it as another opportunity to hopefully get his game better.

"He really thrives on coming up against hard opposition. He genuinely does. He likes testing himself. It's going to be a really good battle.

"(Davies) has got the ball on a string off his left foot, at times, and he is a real threat because he is such a strong ball carrier. He's got that second part of his game which is his kick threat and his offload.

"He is a guy we have to get ready to contain."

Irish Independent

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