Joe Schmidt has lauded Isa Nacewa for his contribution to Leinster on and off the field after confirmation the 30-year old is to retire from rugby and return home to New Zealand at the end of the season due to family reasons.
Nacewa joined Leinster in 2008, has won three Heineken Cups with the province and is to date the only non-Irishman to have been voted Irish Rugby Union Players’ Association (IRUPA) player of the year, in 2011.
“I’ve known Isa for a number of years,” said Schmidt, who is expected to announce a replacement in the coming weeks. “He’s universally respected due to the quality of his character, his athleticism, skill and commitment. He has been great value for us, not just on the field where he has provided a string of highlights but off the field also.”
Meanwhile, Leinster’s Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final tie away to London Wasps next month will be refereed by the controversial Pascal Gauzere who has become well-known to Irish rugby fans in recent times.
The Frenchman’s performance was widely held to be the main reason for a poor Leinster-Munster derby encounter at the Aviva 6 months ago and he penalised Munster 18 times last December in their home Heineken Cup match against Saracens.
All four appointments for the Amlin last eight were made yesterday after a meeting which reviewed the performances of match officials in various tournaments and after consultations with and feedback from referee managers, unions and club coaches.
Ireland’s John Lacey will take charge of Gloucester and Biarritz at Kingsholm on Thursday, April 4, Alain Rolland will be on Perpignan and Toulouse the following evening (when Leinster will also be in action) while Nigel Owens will oversee Bath and Stade Francais on the Saturday.
“We will be asking the match officials to continue to focus on key areas of the game in order to allow a contest for the ball by both teams and to give the ball-carrying team the space to play within the laws,” said ERC Match Official Performance Manager, Donal Courtney.
“The officials will be reminded to manage all aspects of the scrum, as well as tackle and ruck situations, in particular where players wilfully go off their feet to prevent a fair contest for the ball. They will also be asked to be strict on issues of foul play, especially dangerous tackles, and to be vigilant for lineout maul obstruction and for players going offside from kicks.”
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