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Isa Nacewa still feeling fresh at 34 and credits that to his 2-year break

The Aucklander his hoping the influence of the ‘exceptional’ Graham Henry can give Leinster and edge in his second year back after retirement.

Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

IT WAS ONE of the more eyebrow-raising signings made last summer, but Isa Nacewa didn’t take long to dispel doubts over his ability to come back after two years retired from professional rugby.

The Aucklander did much more than that. At the tail end of the season, he was still the man making big impacts and setting standards for Leinster in attack and defence.

Rather than being a mere good influence on the squad behind the scenes, he was able to do it game after game too. Little wonder then, that his team-mates have twice voted him to be captain since Kevin McLaughlin’s enforced retirement.

“It is (great) to get the vote from the squad. It’s quite humbling too, but exciting at the same time.”

There’s an energy and enthusiasm about Nacewa at the launch of the new Pro12 season, and it bubbles over when he’s asked if how much the two years back home have helped him to add longevity to his extremely long list of qualities.

“Absolutely, I think everyone should do it,” the 34-year-old laughs.

“It does. I’m not comparing myself to All Blacks, but look what the NZRU did with Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Dan Carter, Richie McCaw (sabbaticals from the game to rest)  between 2011 and 2015.

My time away was a mental break. But physically, the toll some of the guys have in the long seasons now, I just didn’t have.

“I came back fresh and still feeling strong at the end of last season.”

During his short retirement, Nacewa took up a coaching role with the Auckland Blues. So, perhaps with one eye on his next retirement, he had a little extra incentive to listen closely to Graham Henry, who has now flown back to New Zealand after acting as a coaching consultant for Leinster ahead of the new campaign.

Isa Nacewa Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“It’s exceptional. With all his experience, everyone in the organisation took something away from him. He just has so much experience.

I look back over the two weeks and I think the best thing he did for us was to simplify a lot of things.

“That just showed the calibre – world class, World Cup-winning coach that he is – that he could come here and simplify things which has immediately shown in the way we’ve played the two pre-season games.

“Simplify things, and get real clarity and understanding around what you’re trying to do is paramount in the way we play.

“You can have the most expansive gameplan possible, but if you don’t understand it or don’t know how to work it, it’s pointless.”

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Sean Farrell

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