Leone Nakarawa’s second Glasgow debut could be delayed for weeks

Champions Cup match against Exeter Chiefs may come too soon for Fijian forward

Leone Nakarawa
Leone Nakarawa arrives at Glasgow Airport after re-signing for the Warriors. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

LEONE Nakarawa may not play for Glasgow in next week’s vital Champions Cup match against Exeter Chiefs, and could also miss out on the game against Sale in the same competition a week later. The Fijian forward is “in pretty good nick” according to Dave Rennie, and the head coach admitted that injuries to others could bring his second debut forward, but as things stand, Nakarawa will be given more time to get up to speed with matters such as lineout calls.

Had negotiations with Nakarawa been “done and dusted within days” as assistant coach Kenny Murray said was the hope in the middle of last month, he might well have been able to take part in tomorrow’s PRO14 match against Benetton as well as in the European game with Exeter. Instead, bureaucratic delays have meant that by the time he is able to play Glasgow may well have suffered two more crucial defeats at a time when their hopes in both league and cup are finely balanced.

“He arrived yesterday,” Rennie said of Nakarawa after announcing his team for the game in Treviso. “He had a few issues around planes and cyclones in Fiji, but he’s arrived and he looks in pretty good nick.

Jonny Gray signs for Exeter Chiefs on a two-year deal

Edinburgh make 11 changes for Southern Kings clash

Glasgow make major changes for crucial Treviso trip

“We’ll start getting him back into things. Once we get clarity on where he’s at physically, we’ll start making decisions around that. He’s been training over the past month. Obviously he was in France and even when I spoke to him and he was heading back to Fiji, we spoke about expectations and so on. We don’t envisage that being too much of a problem for him. We’ll test him on Monday and get some clarity around where he’s at.”

Nakarawa reported back late from the World Cup to his previous club, Racing 92, who first suspended him and then tore up his contract for that and previous disciplinary breaches. He has not played since the tournament in Japan – another reason why he may need a couple of weeks before being match-ready – but will be eligible for Europe provided Glasgow register him.

Asked if it was realistic to expect Nakarawa to play against the Chiefs next week, Rennie continued: “Potentially not. Obviously we’ve got a little bit of loyalty to the guys we’ve got there, too, in the second-row and loose forwards.

“We’ll see how things are after this weekend. If you get a couple of injuries, that can obviously change the picture a little bit.

“The first thing is we need to make sure he’s ready to go: he’s got a lot to learn in terms of our line-outs and his role within the structures. But he’s a smart man and we think he’ll be able to slot in seamlessly. This time next week, we’ll have a clearer picture.”

Looking long term

Rennie could change his mind and play his new signing sooner, of course. But whenever it comes, Nakarawa’s reappearance in a Warriors jersey looks sure to provide an immense morale boost to the team’s support as well as to the squad itself.

It remains to be seen, however, whether that boost will merely be short-term. As Rennie is leaving at the end of the season, negotiations to keep Nakarawa beyond the expiry in the summer of his present short-term deal will be left to incoming coach Danny Wilson as well as management at both Scotstoun and Murrayfield. “That’s a decision for Danny and Scotland and Glasgow, but he’s really excited to be back,” the current coach added. “Obviously the fact that he’s been here before, he’s really tight with Ryan Wilson and Niko [Matawalu], and I think they were constantly pestering him when he was talking about departing from Racing . . . . 

“He’s got a lot of good mates here, he enjoys the culture and our job is to get him playing really well for us. Hopefully he really enjoys it and wants to stay longer, but with someone like him, there’s massive demand and huge sums of money involved.”

With key players such as tighthead prop Zander Fagerson, Exeter-bound lock Jonny Gray and stand-off Adam Hastings all rested for the Benetton match, the Warriors could have done with reinforcements. But Rennie expressed confidence in the side he has selected for the trip to Treviso, while also warning that his defence will need to be on the alert against a very threatening Benetton maul. 

“We’re taking a good side over to Italy. Benetton are a good team and they’ll be pretty much at full strength – there aren’t many requirements around the Italians in terms of rest protocols. They’ll be desperate for the win as well. 

“They’re a bit like us – they got off to a really slow start during the World Cup. They’ve then had a couple of wins against Zebre recently. They’ve got a really good maul – all six tries last week started from five metres out. So that’s a real weapon for them.”

Testing squad depth

But for the Scotland protocol, Hastings would have been available this weekend, having passed his cognitive tests after taking a knock last week. By contrast, Tommy Seymour would not have been involved in any case as he failed his test yesterday.

The absence of Fagerson, meanwhile, gives Adam Nicol a chance to show what he can do at tighthead, while Petrus du Plessis stands ready as back-up on the bench. Du Plessis is more of a scrummaging coach than a player these days, and suggested recently that at 38 he was unlikely to play again. But with injury to D’Arcy Rae combining with the need to rest Fagerson, the South African has stepped up his training in recent weeks.

“He’s been training throughout,” Rennie explained. “His focus has been on coaching but he’s still been doing a lot of work – he’s been in the gym and been doing a lot of running and so on. When D’Arcy got injured, he started doing a lot more training knowing that this weekend, we might need him.

“He’s still been doing a lot of scrums anyway, to get a feel for how our young looseheads are going. So he’s fine, and if he has to play a big chunk of the game he can do that. He’s in good nick and we’re lucky to have that sort of support. He’s a very good scrummager and he’s important to us.”

Scotland Under-20s training squad announced

THE OFFSIDE LINE'S coverage of Glasgow Warriors is powered by MCCREA FINANCIAL SERVICES.

McCrea Financial Services sponsor Glasgow Warriors and provide a wide range of financial advisory services including mortgage, pension and retirement planning advice. See www.mccreafs.co.uk to contact them for more information.
About Stuart Bathgate 1262 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.


  1. “Once we get clarity on where he’s at physically”

    So, did he not have a medical to determine where he’s at physically?

  2. Give Leone a run-out at lock for Ayrshire Bulls v Watsonians, in the televised match on 19 January. It might boost the viewing figures and perhaps pull a few more fans through the gate on the day.

Comments are closed.