FORMER fans’ favourite Leone Nakarawa could be on his way back to Glasgow Warriors in the coming weeks if Dave Rennie manages to get the necessary funding for the move.
The Fijian lock, who spent three seasons at Scotstoun under Gregor Townsend from 2013, was sacked by Racing 92 yesterday after failing to explain why he reported back from the World Cup more than two weeks late. Nakarawa, 31, is certain to be heavily in demand despite that indiscipline, and although Glasgow could probably not offer the highest wage, Rennie hopes that the player’s continuing friendship with old team-mates such as Ryan Wilson will tip the balance in the Warriors’ favour.
“He’s really tight with a lot of these boys,” the head coach said. “I know Wilson’s in constant contact with him. Yeah, he’s a fan favourite, he loved it here, the boys loved him, so if we can make it happen that would be brilliant.”
Asked if an approach would be made to Nakarawa or his representative, Rennie went on: “Yes, there will be. Obviously it’s only become official today. Like I say, there’ll be a bit of follow-up now.”
Rennie himself had not made contact with the player’s agent when he addressed journalists at lunchtime yesterday after naming his line-up for this afternoon’s Champions Cup match in La Rochelle. But he has kept a close eye on the situation since Nakarawa was suspended by Racing last month, and hopes that he will have sufficient funds to make a plausible offer.
“Well, we’ll be dipping into everyone’s pockets to find out,” he added. “Obviously we’ve heard a whisper that [the dismissal] could happen. From what I understand, the whole of Europe are making phone calls to his agent, so we’ll see how that pans out.”
In their statement that announced they were ripping up Nakarawa’s contract, Racing said this was not the first time they had had to discipline him for going absent without an acceptable explanation. His behaviour, they said, showed a total lack of team spirit and “set a deplorable example for the Racing players when his status as the best player in the 2018 Champions Cup should have led him to set a better example”.
There was nothing at all deplorable about Nakarawa’s time at Scotstoun, where he appeared to be happily settled. Rennie did not arrive until the season following the Fijian’s departure for France, but he is well aware of how big a role he played at the club – notably when they won the PRO12 final in 2015 and he was named man of the match.
Should Nakarawa return in the coming weeks it will be a major morale-boost for the team at a time when their season hangs in the balance. Having beaten Sale but lost to Exeter so far in the Champions Cup, they need to beat La Rochelle home and away over the coming eight days to keep their qualification hopes alive, according to Rennie.
“We need to win both these games against La Rochelle to still be in the mix going into January, we think,” after picking a side which he reckons is the strongest available to him. One notable absentee because of injury is Oli Kebble, whose place at loosehead goes to Alex Allan while new signing Aki Seiuli is on the bench.
“The scrum collapsed last week and he went head first into that,” the coach explained of Kebble. “He had concussion about a month ago, so we’re being cautious. He has started protocols and we don’t want to rush him back in. He may miss both European games.”
La Rochelle, bottom of Pool Two with no points from their first two games, are captained by former All Black Victor Vito and include ex-Glasgow prop Sila Puafisi on the bench.
Glasgow Warriors (v La Rochelle at the Stade Marcel Deflandre, Saturday 3.15pm British time, live on BT Sport): T Seymour; N Matawalu, N Grigg, S Johnson, D van der Merwe; A Hastings, G Horne; A Allan, F Brown, Z Fagerson, J Gray, S Cummings, C Gibbins (captain), R Wilson, M Fagerson. Subs: G Turner, A Seiuli, A Nicol, R Harley, T Gordon, A Price, P Horne, K Steyn.
La Rochelle: K Murimurivalu; V Rattez, J Sinzelle, P Aguillon, Pierre Boudehent; J Plisson, A Bales; D Priso, J Orioli, R Herrera, T Jolmes, M Tanguy, Z Kieft, K Gourdon, V Vito (captain). Subs: B Lebrun, R Wardi, S Puafisi, T Lavault, Paul Boudehent, T Kerr Barlow, B James, B Plessis-Couillaud.
Referee: L Pearce (England).