Sunday 29 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
# leinster leader
'Isa really stepped up when Kev had to retire': Leo Cullen explains his choice of Leinster captain
The Kiwi will still be around to lead Leinster’s squad when the Irish internationals head in to camp.

LEINSTER HEAD COACH Leo Cullen is confident that any one of his trio of captain and vice captains are cut out for the job of leading the team on a given day.

Isa Nacewa Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

The 37-year-old in his first year at the helm of his native province last week appointed Kiwi utility back Isa Nacewa as his new captain with Jonathan Sexton and last year’s skipper Jamie Heaslip in support.

Nacewa has surpassed most expectations since returning to play with the province after two years out of the game; scoring four tries, six penalties, three conversions and generally adding real assurance to a young Leinster back-line.

The decision to name Nacewa captain came in difficult circumstances after blindside Kevin McLaughlin was forced into premature retirement due to concussion fears. That bombshell forced Cullen to appoint a second captain in as many months, another trip through the process of ‘getting a gauge’ of what each contender brings to the role, and when.

“Isa was coming back, just back playing, but he really stepped up when Kev had to retire,” Cullen explained yesterday.

“He’s done a really good job in his position and the fact that he’s here during the course of the season is a real advantage we’d see.”

Jonathan Sexton and Isa Nacewa

That is the one big factor that seems to have made the 33-year-old single-cap Fijian international a cut above Sexton and Heaslip for Cullen. The continuity benefits of having the most senior leader within the squad when so many other players are away for weeks at a time in Ireland camp can not be over stated.

“Isa gives us real stability,” states Cullen. ”The fact that he’s here during the course of the year, the fact that Johnny and Jamie are such key figures in leadership roles with Ireland, it’s important to be fair to those guys as well.

Exclusive Six
Nations Analysis

Get Murray Kinsella’s exclusive analysis of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign this spring

Become a Member

“Any of those three guys could do the job well on the day, that’s what I’m most interested in.”

“Jamie and Johnny are both Leinster guys. They’re very, very passionate about the team. Jamie has done the role in the past. Obviously, Johnny’s been away, but he’s a key figure in the history of Leinster Rugby and some of the success that has occurred here.

“We feel very fortunate to have those three guys.”

Connacht will have Robbie Henshaw back when they take aim for the league’s summit

‘Sometimes it takes a few times to learn lessons’: Leinster players striving to put RWC behind them