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Dublin: 1 °C Thursday 17 January, 2019

Nacewa fit to captain Leinster in his last game before retirement

Leo Cullen has named his team for Saturday’s Pro14 final against Scarlets.

ISA NACEWA HAS again defied a troublesome calf problem to prove his fitness in time for Saturday’s Guinness Pro14 final against Scarlets, with the 35-year-old to play the final game of an illustrious career in front of a sold-out Aviva Stadium.

Nacewa lasted just 40 minutes of last week’s semi-final win over Munster at the RDS but he will pull on the blue jersey for the final time tomorrow evening [KO 6pm, Sky Sports/TG4] as the eastern province bid to complete an outstanding season with a historic Pro14-Champions Cup double.

Jonathan Sexton Johnny Sexton and Isa Nacewa both start for Leinster. Source: Patrick O'Connor/INPHO

Nacewa partners Garry Ringrose in the Leinster midfield again with Rob Kearney and Johnny Sexton also returning to the back line, with James Lowe retained on the left wing after his man-of-the-match performance against Munster.

In the pack, it’s the same front five that started the Champions Cup final, while Dan Leavy is back from injury to start at openside in a back row containing Rhys Ruddock and Jack Conan.

The presence of Nacewa in the side is a huge boost for Leinster, particularly with Robbie Henshaw sidelined through injury, as the legendary back looks to add another major title to his collection before bowing out of the professional game.

Nacewa’s Leinster career started with a 16-16 away draw with Cardiff Blues in September 2008 and during two spells with the province, the Auckland native has won 184 caps,  scored 47 tries and been part of four European Cup winning sides.

The Leinster captain put in big shifts during the Champions Cup knockout rounds and then picked up a knock in the attritional final defeat of Racing 92 at the start of this month, which forced him off at half-time last week.

Sexton, Kearney and Leavy all sat out the inter-pro win over Munster but have been able to train this week and return as part of four changes Cullen has made to his starting XV for the final game of the season.

Kearney replaces Joey Carbery at fullback, Sexton comes in for Ross Byrne in the pivot position and Jordi Murphy drops to the bench in place of Leavy, with Ruddock preferred to Scott Fardy in the number six shirt.

Rob Kearney Rob Kearney is back as one of four changes. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The other change sees Cian Healy come back in for Jack McGrath, who is named on the replacements bench alongside Carbery, Fardy, Murphy, Andrew Porter, James Tracy, Nick McCarthy and Rory O’Loughlin.

No side has ever won the double but Leinster, on the back of a fourth European star, go into tomorrow’s final — which is a repeat of last month’s Champions Cup semi-final — as 11-point favourites.

Scarlets, meanwhile, are bidding to win back-to-back titles after lifting the Pro12 last year with victory over Munster in Dublin.


15. Rob Kearney
14. Jordan Larmour
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Isa Nacewa (captain)
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton
9. Luke McGrath

1. Cian Healy
2. Sean Cronin
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. James Ryan
6. Rhys Ruddock
7. Dan Leavy
8. Jack Conan


16. James Tracy
17. Jack McGrath
18. Andrew Porter
19. Scott Fardy
20. Jordi Murphy
21. Nick McCarthy
22. Joey Carbery
23. Rory O’Loughlin.

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Ryan Bailey

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