Nacewa hopes to confound expectations one last time

He was never going to sit this one out.

Not Isa. Not now.

Replaced after 40 minutes of last week’s defeat of Munster at the RDS, and with a knee that has been giving him grief all year, how could he not declare himself fit for this last shot at glory before calling time on his glittering career?

“I’m definitely aiming for far more than 40,” Nacewa laughed yesterday.

What a journey it has been. It is four months shy of a full decade since he made his debut for the province, against Cardiff Blues.

What has followed, on and off the field of play, has been phenomenal.

Nacewa has featured in every position across the back line for Leinster and shone in them all. He has earned four European Cup medals, a Challenge Cup version and — somewhat surprisingly maybe — a single league title.

Making that two would be the ideal way to say goodbye. For a second time. Nacewa spent two years in a premature retirement between 2013 and 2015 but nobody seriously doubts that, at the ripe old age of 35, this really is the end.

“I’ll believe when I see it,” Wayne Pivac joked.

The Scarlets head coach worked with a teenage Nacewa with the Blues academy back in the day and he paid rich tribute to his compatriot’s work ethic, class and impact in Dublin. Just as countless others have down the years.

His likes may never be seen on these shores again: Certainly not as long as the IRFU stick to the understandable policy of limiting foreign players and the length of time and number of contracts they can sign with the provinces.

Nacewa has had a habit of confounding expectations. His return from those two years of self-imposed retirement was a risk that could have tarnished his legacy. Never go back is a maxim that works for clubs as much as old flames, but he debunked that theory too.

“It was just pure excitement to get back here and to push on and chase more,” he said at yesterday’s PRO14 captain’s run at the Aviva Stadium.

“The Champions Cup trophy took a little longer than expected to get. 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. Nah, there’s no looking back at the past.”

Not just yet.


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