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5am starts in an Auckland gym leave Isa Nacewa hungry for medals on Leinster return

The Kiwi has worked hard to get back in to shape, because he believes Jonathan Sexton makes anything possible.

ISA NACEWA IS more than ready to come back and be a professional rugby player again.

Not just anywhere. He had his chance to lace up his boots again in New Zealand, but picturing his future in another shade just didn’t feel quite right.

Isa Nacewa Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Even home felt a little odd after a glittering career in Dublin.

“It took a good while to get back into sort of New Zealand life. After being away for five years, just how far away from the rest of the world New Zealand is, took a bit of getting used to.”

“It might sound cheesy, but I could just picture myself pulling on a Leinster jersey at the RDS again and that’s the motivating factor in coming back and playing again.”

The Kiwi – famously a Fijian international – will turn 33 in the depth of pre-season training next month, but two years on from retiring, the brilliantly talented back is fresh and hungry again.

Hungry enough to move himself and his young family back across the other side of the world. Hungry enough to put himself through a pre-pre-season to make sure his muscles don’t seize out of pure shock come 1 July.

“There is nothing worse than that first week of pre-season. If you haven’t done anything you are as sore as hell and I mean every bit of your body is sore,” Nacewa said after upstaging the World Cup at a Land Rover event at Old Belvedere RFC.

Gordon D'Arcy and Isa Nacewa pose with the Rugby World Cup 2015 Defender as it brings the Webb Ellis Cup to Old Belvedere RFC as part of the Rugby World Cup Trophy Tour_4

“To get over that, the guys are so professional now that you don’t have an off-season. You just programme what you have to do over four weeks. But I have had to do it over four months and have done with the strength and conditioning coaches at the Blues.

“Albeit working out at 5am to get two sessions done before starting my real job. It helped me mentally sticking to a programme for six weeks, a solid one, just to get me into reasonable shape.”



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The ‘real job’ he worked a consistent training schedule around was the oddly titled mental skills coach role he had with the Auckland Blues. It wasn’t a moniker he was keen to have carved on to a door anywhere, just a loose description of how a model pro like Nacewa was tasked with mentoring the young raw talent in the Blues’ ranks.

His role with Leinster allows a similar amount of wiggle room. Officially he may well be ‘just a player’, but it would be remiss of the province not to use him as something more. A coach, a mentor, a standard-bearer. He comes back to the northern hemisphere not only feeling better off and recharged by his time away from the game, but wiser and more experienced in motivating players caught in a rut of poor results.

“I’ve never been in the position of losing week after week,” Nacewa offers as his big takeaway from his first coaching job.

Isa Nacewa and Leo Cullen 24/5/2013 Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“And doing it from the other side of the fence too, seeing how players react was a big learning for myself. We [Leinster] spent the majority of time winning each week. So I have learned a lot, especially how you react to poor circumstances. It shows a lot of the character in your squad.”

Watching Leinster in his two years away wasn’t the highest of Nacewa’s priorities. And when he did, the 32-year-old says the ‘nerves’ got to him and he would wind up fast-forwarding through the dull moments. He did keep in contact with a handful of players though: Shane Jennings (who he calls “a massive loss”), Isaac Boss and Ian Madigan.

Jonathan Sexton and Isa Nacewa lift the Amlin Cup Trophy Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

However, it’s the other returning playmaker who prompts the real excitement.

‘Isa, can you win silverware with Leinster this season?’

“Massively so…..we have Jonny Sexton back,” he says with widened eyes.

“I wouldn’t have come back if I wasn’t going to be chasing a trophy.”

Isa Nacewa was speaking on behalf of Land Rover as part of a 100 Day Tour of the UK and Ireland for the Webb Ellis Cup. Land Rover’s #WeDealInReal Rugby World Cup 2015 campaign will champion rugby’s grassroots by putting local clubs on the global stage.

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Sean Farrell

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