Return of Isa Nacewa still a possibility for Leinster
Leo Cullen says squad needs to be bolstered, especially with players going to World Cup
Isa Nacewa may be returning to Leinster next season with talk of his signing a year-long contract in a player/coach role. Photograph: Dan Sheridan /Inpho
He was responding to a Sunday Times story that the 32-year-old Auckland-born player, who won a single cap for Fiji, was reputed to be on his way back to the Irish province, where he spent five successful years. He is fondly remembered by players, management and supporters for the quality of his performances that earned him cult hero status, before he retired and returned home two years ago.
The drain on Leinster’s playing roster next season, particularly during the Rugby World Cup where the province is due to play six Pro12 matches mean the province are exploring several possibilities, the latest of which is the signing of Nacewa on a year-long contract in a player/coach role.
“That’s 14 guys that we would potentially miss if you translate that into a World Cup squad. Even someone like Richie Murphy who is working with the Irish team at the moment in terms of kicking and skills coach, assuming that he’s going to the World Cup, he’d be someone else that we would be missing.
“We are looking all the time about how we replace some of the experience that we are going to lose. There are lots of these things going on at this time of year but there is always a little bit of the silly season about it. There is nothing concrete in place as things stand.
“If he was to come back in a potential role, he would be a massive help whatever that would be. All it is is a rumour. There has been a few conversations for sure, but we are trying to put plans in place based on the six games we have to play during the World Cup.
“He’s a guy who knows the place pretty well. With all these things there are so many pieces to the puzzle in terms of planning and in terms of getting the sign-off from the union in terms of a foreign guy, depending on where he came in, be it in a coaching or playing capacity. It’s miles off as things stand at the moment.”
Contract extensionZane Kirchner
Cullen said, with a smile when told that the player in question wouldn’t comment: “Zane, as far as I am aware . . . I thought he was signed. Well that’s his business.”
When asked whether Leinster wanted to retain the Springbok fullback’s services, Cullen said: “One hundred per cent. They are pretty advanced, the talks. It is up to him if he wants to declare it himself.”
The grit and determination that allowed Leinster to rescue a 9-9 draw against the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium with a late Jimmy Gopperth penalty will be required again this weekend when the province returns to Wales to face the Scarlets.
They will be in better shape from a personnel perspective.
Cullen said: “You are looking at the Ireland subs. Eoin Reddan didn’t get any game time, Seán Cronin got a few minutes at the end, Cian [Healy] and Marty [Moore] played about 20-odd minutes so I suppose some of those guys might come back into the mix.
“I’d imagine Luke Fitzgerald and Mike McCarthy will come back into the mix. We’ll see as the week goes on who will be playing and who will be going back into camp.”
Jack Conan, a late withdrawal the last day, should also be available.