cold comfort

Nacewa braced for 'Test match' intensity from Montpellier to heat up RDS

Meanwhile, head coach Leo Cullen is enthusiastic about the form and fitness of Jonathan Sexton.

ISA NACEWA ISN’T quite ready for war just yet.

With well over 24 hours to go before the Champions Cup pool meeting with Montpellier, his shoulders are hiked well up towards his ears as he walks past the south stand and in to a bitterly cold RDS.

Leo Cullen and Isa Nacewa Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Tomorrow will be a different story for the Leinster captain. For today, it’s jeans and the mandatory media duty.

“Johnny’s back,” comes the self-explanatory response when the Aucklander is asked if his team-mates might chip in with a few scores — as opposed to Nacewa providing all 16 in the reverse fixture in October. The out-half will take the kicking tee again this week.

A separate mention of Sexton draws a smile from Nacewa as his head coach Leo Cullen briefly considered venturing into technical running terms in reference to whether Sexton’s Santry experience has noticeably changed his movement. But the captain’s shudder is a reminder of his past as a sturdy second row.

“I don’t have any expertise in terms of movement mechanics,” Cullen explains with a grin.

“But I’m being told (Sexton) is making great strides. He’s looked sharp training-wise, he’s trained the last couple of weeks, so he’s been fully involved in the running of the team.

Jonathan Sexton Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

“It was good to get that bit of game-time under his belt last week. Came through with no ill effects and he’s in a good place, would have (taken) plenty of confidence from last week.”

A confidence boost is just about all that could have been yielded from the 70 – 6 drubbing of Zebre. The test facing Leinster tomorrow will be incomparably more difficult as Jake White’s side come with lingering hope of making the knock-out stages and a sizeable set of men to help them there.

Few are bigger, certainly nobody in a back three, than Nemani Nadolo. The Fijian powerhouse caused Leinster endless problems in October’s 22 – 16 defeat and he will have robust help inside in the shape of out-half Frans Steyn and centre Joe Tomane. At some point Adam Byrne will be called upon to stop the ex-Crusader, but limiting his opportunity will be a collective effort.

“Not let them get the ball into his hands where he’s got a lot of space,” offers Cullen as an explanation of how to stop the wing. “That’s probably one of the big things we’ve worked on.”

The prize on the line for Leinster is a quarter-final, and ultimately home advantage to go with it. The most recent Champions Cup quarter-final day in Dublin came in Nacewa’s absence. The one-time Fiji international has not performed on that stage since he scored in the Aviva Stadium win over Cardiff in 2012.

Isa Nacewa Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

With rounds five and six still to be played though, it’s too soon for Nacewa to think about the bridging of that five-year gap. The intense heat of battle on home turf is the only thing in his focus.

“Being back at the RDS is a big enough motivation for us. We have looked at what happened last time in the Montpellier game and how we got ourselves into the (losing) situation.

“Over the last few weeks we have just worked on ourselves. They are a world-class team with world-class players so we have to expect it to be a Test match mentality. We will focus on ourselves and hope things go right.”

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