AFTER weeks of patient, painstaking negotiations, Glasgow have got their man at last. A statement released by the Warriors this morning (Thursday) confirmed what had been expected for some time: that Leone Nakarawa will return to Scotstoun as a player for the rest of the season. He is due to arrive in the city today.
The initial deal is to the end of the season, although Warriors will be keen to investigate whether a longer-term arrangement can be agreed, especially if there is substance in the BBC report that emerged yesterday about Jonny Gray being Exeter Chiefs bound at the end of the current season. It has also been suggested that Richie Gray, who is coming out of contract at Toulouse, may be a target this summer.
“I’ve remained close with my ex-teammates during my time in Paris and they played a big role in my decision to come back,” said Nakarawa. “I’m really looking forward to working with Dave Rennie and the coaching staff. Glasgow Warriors play an attacking style, which suits the way I like to play. The pitch may be different but I can’t wait to see some familiar faces in the crowd when I run out at Scotstoun”.
The race to sign the Fijian lock – who had three very happy and successful seasons with the club between the summers of 2013 and 2016 – began in earnest just over four weeks ago, when Racing 92 announced that they had sacked him for breaches of team discipline, the biggest offence having been his two-week absence without leave following the Rugby World Cup. However, by that time Glasgow, among other clubs, had been keeping an eye on the situation since the middle of November, when Racing suspended Nakarawa and initiated the disciplinary procedure which would end in their ripping up his contract.
Rennie only arrived at Scotstoun the year after Nakarawa moved from Paris to Glasgow, but he was well aware of the forward’s iconic status among the Warriors support, and knew that players such as Ryan Wilson had maintained close contact with him since his departure. Knowing that clubs in other countries would be able to offer Nakarawa a considerably larger basic salary, the Glasgow coach hoped that those factors would help sway the decision in his own team’s favour.
That hope has now been realised.
November 12: Racing 92 suspend Nakarawa after the Fijian reports back from World Cup duty two weeks late.
December 6: Racing announce they have terminated Nakarawa’s contract, citing “a total lack of team spirit” and claiming that his unauthorised post-World-Cup absence had been far from his first disciplinary offence. Dave Rennie immediately declares an interest in bringing the lock back to Glasgow.
December 10: Warriors assistant coach Kenny Murray says he hopes the Nakarawa deal can be “done and dusted within days”, and hints at an initial agreement for the rest of the season with an option on both sides to extend the deal.
December 12: Bayonne, who had been seen in France as frontrunners for Nakarawa’s signature, admit defeat in the bid to secure his services and inform the French media that he is Glasgow-bound.
January 2: Glasgow announce they have signed Nakarawa.