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Former Munster lock Ian Nagle set for surprise return to professional rugby

Leinster, Munster and Ulster are believed to have expressed an interest.

FORMER MUNSTER LOCK Ian Nagle — man of the match in their 2010 win over Australia —looks to be on the verge of a shock return to professional rugby 18 months after taking a break from the game.

Ian Nagle celebrates at the end of the match 21/12/2013 Nagle last played for Munster in 2013.

Nagle, currently preparing for next week’s Cambridge-Oxford varsity match alongside Welsh international Jamie Roberts, is now a student in the illustrious MBA business course at Cambridge.

But a handful of offers from some of the top professional clubs in Ireland and England have 27-year-old Nagle prepared to make his comeback at the end of the college year.

It is believed that London Irish and Worcester Warriors are keen, while closer to home Munster, Leinster and Ulster have expressed an interest.

Before being accepted to the UK’s top college this September, Nagle worked in Washington DC with the aim of a future career in a venture capital firm, but despite being frustrated with his progress as a rugby player, he’s ready to give it another shot.

“I know I’m fortunate. Every reason I took a break from rugby was a positive one. I got to have a say in the break – it wasn’t enforced,” said Nagle.

“I was in no man’s land in terms of the guarantees I had. I took time away from rugby before I had the guarantee of getting into the MBA. But I knew what I wanted to do and I was fortunate to be able to transfer the discipline of what I learned in rugby into something different.

“People in Munster were very understanding. I spoke to Anthony Foley and Garrett Fitzgerald and I think they understood it. They saw the injuries I had and the timing of them and they understood that I was a bit frustrated with myself.”

Ian Nagle and Scott Higginbotham Nagle was man of the match against Australia in 2010. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The big second-row played 28 times for Munster, but last featured for the southern province in December 2013, before he moved on loan to Newcastle in the English Premiership. Injury halted his progress in the UK before he decided to make a clean break from the game altogether.

Any return home to Ireland would be an emotional trip for the Buttevant man, but he seems open to whatever opportunities comes his way.

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“Munster made it clear that the door will always be open for me to come back. There were a few clubs that I spoke to before I finished with Munster and I flagged it with them too that I was thinking of taking time away from the game.

“All those clubs were all open to it too, surprisingly enough. I have kept in touch with a few of them throughout the year. If I hadn’t been accepted to the MBA I had a few opportunities to go back and play rugby, but when I got in a few of them said the door would be open for me to come back.

“There are no guarantees and no contracts signed, but all going well something will pop up in the New Year,” Nagle said.

Being behind some of Munster’s greatest ever second-rows – Paul O’Connell, Donnacha Ryan and Donncha O’Callaghan – in the pecking order certainly meant chances to shine were few and far between for Nagle, but he says it was his own frustrations that drove him back to academia and onto the cusp of the Varsity Match on 10 December.

Ian Nagle Nagle is on the brink of a return to the pro game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I found myself a little bit frustrated, but it was never at anyone or anything. It was myself I was frustrated with,” he said.

“From when I was 16 I used to travel into the gym at UL from Glenstal with Ray Egan. For nine years I sacrificed everything for rugby and I was happy to do so, but I was frustrated that I didn’t achieve everything I wanted to.

“I found myself getting more and more excited by the prospect of doing the MBA, doing a bit of travelling and getting involved in a start up, while keeping the rugby window ajar.

“Right now I’m focused on my studies, but I’m looking forward to the varsity game too. We’ll see what happens in the next few months.”

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Declan Rooney

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