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Who is the best-ever import into Irish rugby from abroad?

This week’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly found the lads in unanimous agreement.

WITH LITTLE RECENT or upcoming rugby to discuss, this week’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly found the lads in reflective, nostalgic mood.

Gavan Casey was joined by Andy Dunne and Murray Kinsella on today’s podcast to discuss the greatest imports into Irish rugby.

Each of the lads picked their top five and found the process particularly tricky from numbers five down to two.

But they were unanimous in selecting Leinster’s Isa Nacewa as the best-ever import into Irish rugby.

isa-nacewa-celebrates-after-the-game Nacewa won four Heineken Cups with Leinster. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Nacewa won four Heineken Cups, two Pro14 titles, and a Challenge Cup during his two spells with Leinster, initially signing from the Blues in New Zealand in 2008 and then coming out of retirement to re-join the province in 2015 before his final retirement in 2018.

A huge fan favourite, the versatile back’s impact was massive off the pitch as well as on it, meaning The42 Rugby Weekly found picking their number one import rather straightforward.

“To me, the number one was the easier choice because I picked Isa Nacewa by some distance,” said Andy.

“He won four European Cups and his fourth was after retiring and then coming back out of retirement. 

“It’s hard to quantify how impressive that is. When I retired, I felt like I couldn’t walk for four months, my body just took such a time to recover. There was no chance in my physical being or mental being that I could entertain playing professional rugby again.

“For Nacewa to come back as if he hadn’t been away for two years, it’s almost hard to explain how difficult that must have been. 

“That alone is impressive but the likes of Brian O’Driscoll and others say Nacewa had the biggest influence on their careers in terms of how well he trained, who skillful he was, how successful he was. 


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“For me, it was an easier choice to pick number one than two, three, four, and five. I think by a clear distance, Nacewa is the number one Irish import.”

isa-nacewa-celebrates-with-his-wife-simone-and-four-daughters Nacewa with his wife, Simone, and four daughters. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Gavan was in agreement:

“I don’t think anyone would disagree with that, I’ve certainly got him at number one here. Murray, do you have him at number one?”

“Yeah, I do,” said Murray. “Both spells with Leinster were so successful and also the fact that he was so versatile – played on both wings, brilliant at fullback, played 10 more so at the start, I think he even played 12 as well, could place-kick, just a really complete player; he probably could have played in the back row and done a super job.

“He was really tough, one of the most physical players, which you don’t always say about a back three. Joe Schmidt said once that he felt Isa Nacewa had a better ability to concentrate than any other individual he had met in rugby.

“He could beat players one-on-one, you think of his try against Leicester in 2011 where he plays the one-two with Shane Horgan and beats four defenders, remarkable skill. He could chip, he could grubber, he could do everything really.”

You can listen to the rest of the lads’ top fives and their entire chat on the latest episode of the podcast below or on your favourite podcast app.

Andy Dunne and Murray Kinsella join Gavan Casey to choose their top five Irish rugby imports

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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