A KNEE injury sustained in Glasgow’s league win over Dragons last week will sideline Leone Nakarawa for more than a month. The Fijian forward, who only rejoined the Warriors at the start of the year, suffered suspected medial collateral ligament (MCL) damage in the 34-19 victory, according to head coach Dave Rennie.
“He injured his knee on the weekend,” Rennie explained earlier today (Thursday) after announcing his squad for tomorrow night’s PRO14 match against Leinster in Dublin. “It looks like an MCL, so he’ll be out for a few weeks. Generally you can get them back and going inside six weeks, so that’s the plan.”
Oli Kebble is also out of the squad to play the Conference A leaders after he too picked up an injury, but, with two weeks off to follow this round of fixtures, Rennie expects the front-row forward to be fit again for the team’s next match, away to Ospreys on 21st March. “He tweaked his back last week,” the coach added. “That’s why we brought him off in the end. We’ve got a couple more weeks to get him right.”
The Warriors could do with players as able and experienced as Kebble and Nakarawa for the game against the conference leaders, but Rennie has been encouraged by his team’s recent form and is confident he still has a lot of maturity in the squad. “It’s good to welcome back a few of the international boys – Kyle and George Turner and Tom Gordon are all back, and they’re jumping out of their skin to play. And we also get Matt Fagerson and George Horne back.
“We’ve got a very experienced group, haven’t we, when you look at the guys who don’t play international footy any more. They’ve got a lot of experience, and a few of the newbies are going well. We’ve played well in our last six or seven outings, so it would be good to build on that. We’re clear on how hard we’re going to have to work for it.”
Leinster have won every game they have played so far this season, including a 23-10 victory at Scotstoun at the end of November. But Rennie is confident that his team’s style of play equips them better than most to put the Irish province under pressure, and has identified key factors in that loss three months that he believes his players can rectify this time round.
“Both sides were without a number of players – a pretty similar situation,” he said of that match. “And we played pretty well for a big chunk of that game, but you’ve got to be clinical against Leinster. We scored a couple of tries early, we left a couple out there, and they scored twice within a couple of minutes. And then strangled us out of the game in the second half, as they can do.
“Yeah, look, obviously it was a disappointing result for us. I think we’re playing a lot better footy now – and we’re going to have to play well. They’re 18 out of 18: it’s phenomenal, isn’t it? The quality in depth that they have is unreal. They’ve got a few back from the national team as well. We are one side that can go over there and put them under pressure.”
After three five-pointers – against Benetton, Zebre and most recently Dragons – Glasgow have a tougher run of games coming up. The visits to Leinster and Ospreys are followed by a home match against Ulster at the end of March, then a run of four games which includes visits to the other three Irish sides and a Scotstoun fixture against Cheetahs.
“Yeah, very similar to last year when we had a really tough finish to the year – and we fronted up really well for that,” Rennie added. “The good thing is we’re playing teams that are ahead of us on the log – we’ve got to play Ulster twice, so it’s a chance to haul them in. We obviously play Leinster this week, we’ve got to play Cheetahs again. Ospreys have turned the corner, haven’t they?
“Yeah, look, it’s a tough run home, but it’s a benefit, because if we can get it right, we’re heading into the play-offs with confidence and playing well against good sides.”