Sunday 13 October 2019

Second stint 'more fulfilling' for Isa


Leinster's Isa Nacewa. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Leinster's Isa Nacewa. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Leinster legend Isa Nacewa will captain his province for the final time tonight and has admitted that his second stint at the province has been more fulfilling than the first as Leo Cullen's men stand on the brink of an historic trophy double.

Despite the fact that the Kiwi amassed five winner's medals - including three European Cups - during his first four-year spell at the club, the 35-year-old concedes that his second coming has been much more satisfying.

"Yeah, definitely," he agreed ahead of today's Guinness PRO14 championship final against Scarlets, who they beat in the Champions Cup semi-final here six weeks ago. "I think it's just because of the position we came from as a club, post the loss against Connacht in this final three years ago and how we built from that and learned from that.

"It was just pure excitement to get back here and to push on and chase more. The Champions Cup trophy took a little longer than expected to get to it.

"The landscape had changed. I thought we could just rock back here and push that way straight away. But we had to build and get to that point."

However, Nacewa stresses that this week is not about him and has warned his team-mates not to repeat the mistakes of 2011 and 2012, when Cullen led sides that failed in their attempt to complete the double they hope to achieve this evening.

"I remember the games we have lost in the past when we have been in a position and we have fallen short," he said.

"It just sticks around for a long time. We have worked hard to get to this point and to have this opportunity now.

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"With this group, it would be really special."

Nacewa only managed to play 40 minutes in last week's semi-final win against Munster but expressed the hope he can extend his swansong this weekend.

"We have nothing to manage him for beyond this weekend, not that I know of," joked Cullen.

Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac, whose side defeated Leinster in the semi-final en route to winning this title last season, paid a warm tribute to a player he first met in the Auckland Academy.

"It's been fantastic to watch, he is a class act. He's playing his last match but I'll believe that when I see it! It says a lot that he is captain. A great ambassador."

As expected, Johnny Sexton returns at out-half but Cullen has decided to opt for a back-row of Rhys Ruddock, Dan Leavy and Jack Conan, with Australian Scott Fardy and Ulster-bound Jordi Murphy beginning his final game from the bench.

Scarlets, well beaten in the Champions Cup semi-final by Leinster but reigning champions in this competition, after defeating 14-man Leinster in last year's semi-final, have included Irish call-up Tadhg Beirne, the new Munster signing slotting in at number eight.

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