Nacewa weaves his magic

IT used to be all too easy to chide Leinster for their dependence on the south Dublin hinterland — on and off the pitch — but Saturday’s win wasn’t just forged on the fields of Blackrock or Clongowes.

It was fashioned in outposts like Auckland and Pretoria. Tullow too.

Carlow’s Sean O’Brien made the game-changing tackle on Alesana Tuilagi after the interval, Blomfontein’s Grey College graduate Richardt Strauss was named man of the match and former Hurricane Isa Nacewa scored the decisive try.

It will come as no surprise the first two should be singled out aftera game defined by its wincingphysicality, but Nacewa’s place on that list is evidence of his consistent ability to catch the eye. Like a butterfly in a nuclear wasteland.

His try eight minutes after the interval was sublime — albeit ridiculous in that it should never have come about — but charges against the Leicester defence need to be countered by the full-back’s bewitching feet and and sliding hips.

“Probably the biggest compliment I can given him is that in training when he is running I sometimes get caught looking at him,” said Gordon D’Arcy. “He’s just moving and it’s bouncing and he’s just through the gap and you kind of forget to run your support line because you’re looking at himgoing ‘that’s brilliant’. Then you realise he’s left you for dead and you should be in the support line.

“He makes it look easy and he makes it look like he has time on the ball. They always say that about great soccer players, that they always look like they have time on the ball. Isa just looks like he has time on the ball all the time. He just creates space, whether it’s just shifting the ball to the left, someone has a little thing and then he has a go. We’re convinced it has something to do with the hair, the wave.”

Nacewa has been so good for so long that it is almost getting boring. Those aren’t our words but those of D’Arcy who needed no prompting to declare that his colleague is one of the best he had played with in “any shape, way or form”. High praise, indeed, given the calibre of man the centre has played with for club, country and the Lions and there is an argument to be made that Nacewa could end his time in Ireland as the country’s most successful ever import.

Committed to Leinster until 2013, he has already assured himself similar billing to the likes of Jim Williams, John Langford and Felipe Contepomi in that department after finally admitting defeat in his attempt to be an All Black.

Two lousy minutes as a replacement for Fiji against Scotland in the 2003 World Cup scuppered his deep-seated ambition to wear the silver fern on his chest.

He was brought to Dublin by Michael Cheika three years ago as a utility back who could play at out-half, centre, wing or full-back, Nacewa flattered to deceive at ten and has spent most of his time on the tramlines but it is at 15 where he has been most dangerous.

As is the case now, Nacewa was full-back for the tail end of the successful 2009 European campaignas well. Both stints have owed justas much to Rob Kearney’s injury problems as it did his own abilities but he has dug his heels in even more on this occasion.

A superb counter-attacker, he has added a new dimension to Leinster in that department. He is solid under the high ball, like Kearney, and has improved the kicking from hand which did for his earlier auditions at out-half under Cheika.

Leinster have played 26 games this season and Nacewa has featured in every one.

In only two of those has he failed to feature for the 80 minutes. In all, he has been on the park for 1,992 of Leinster’s 2,080 minutes in the current campaign.

“Isa Nacewa’s try was another spark from him,” said Schmidt. “He has played every single game we have played: pre-season, Magners, Heineken. Thankfully he is not paid minute by minute but he has done a fantastic job for us.”

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