Matt O’Connor: Nacewa’s experience and ability was ‘too good not to pursue’

Home / Matt O’Connor: Nacewa’s experience and ability was ‘too good not to pursue’

LEINSTER HEAD COACH Matt O’Connor says Isa Nacewa’s off-field excellence and his versatility on the pitch made him too good not to pursue.

O’Connor expects the province to be in a position to formally announce the re-signing of their former star in the coming days. Official confirmation was expected last week, although it’s understood there were some late delays in completing the deal.

Nacewa lifts the Pro12 trophy in his last season with Leinster. Source: Colm O’Neill/INPHO

Nacewa, who turns 33 in July, hasn’t played rugby since retiring in 2013. The former Blues man had a year left on his Leinster contract at that point, but instead returned to New Zealand.

The once-capped Fiji international is now ready to re-join his former team for next season, having worked as mental skills coach with the Blues in Super Rugby since shortly after his retirement.

There has been questioning of Leinster’s decision to bring Nacewa back from some quarters, including by former Ireland international Alan Quinlan, who termed the versatile back’s return “odd” in his column in The Irish Times.

However, O’Connor says Nacewa’s experience, both on and off the pitch, will be important in a World Cup season, as well as compensating for the province’s loss of former leaders over the past year and a half.

“We’ve lost a lot of experience out of the changing room and there’s the World Cup dynamic in relation to how many bodies we lose and what positions we lose is a little bit of an unknown,” said O’Connor.

“We won’t know that until September, so to have a guy of the quality of Isa off the field and also his ability and his versatility on the field, was probably too good not to pursue.”

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

More immediately, Leinster’s attention has turned to Friday’s Guinness Pro12 clash with Ulster at Kingspan Stadium, providing a very last lifeline in a league campaign that has been poor.

Fergus McFadden was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a broken thumb after Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Toulon, while Kane Douglas is set for surgery on a back disc problem.

That pair aside, Leinster are hopeful shoulder knocks for Cian Healy and Marty Moore do not prove worse than feared.

“We’re waiting on a couple of scans on Cian and Marty Moore’s shoulders, but we’ll know a little bit more when those scans come in.

Meanwhile, O’Connor stated that Leinster have not referred Jocelino Suta’s choke hold on Richardt Strauss to the EPCR citing commissioner, although he did suggest he believes it needs to be examined.

“It’s not a situation where we refer stuff,” said O’Connor. “It’s not necessarily a decision for us to make. It looked pretty nasty and you’d like to think that someone will take offence with it.”

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