Leone Nakarawa: ‘I feel like I went on holiday for three years then came back home’

Fijian second-row says that a return to Glasgow Warriors was exactly what he needed after Racing 92 fall-out left him in limbo

Leone Nakarawa feels like he has come home. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Leone Nakarawa feels like he has come home. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

IT was cold, wet and windy at Scotstoun this morning [Tuesday], but Leone Nakarawa’s smile lit the place up. After nearly two months in limbo – following his suspension then later his sacking by Racing 92 for returning to the club from the World Cup two weeks later than scheduled – he is back amongst friends.

“The weather is not a big problem for me, the one thing is I feel welcome from the club and all the boys – that’s the main thing,” said the 31-year-old, who started his professional career with Glasgow before moving to Racing 92 in 2016.

“I feel at home with the boys. I feel like I never left – like I went for a holiday for three years and came back,” he added.

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“It didn’t feel weird at all coming back to the changing room. I can see the same faces I saw a few years ago. I feel like one of the boys again and they welcomed me. I just came back and started up again.

“With everything I have been going through the last couple of months, I decided to come back to where everything started. This is where my professional rugby career started so that is the main reason why I chose to come back to Glasgow.”

Nakarawa says he was initially surprised by Racing’s response to his late return, but insists that he has no regrets about his decision to stay out in his native Fiji for an extra fortnight.

“I had an issue with my house. I was supposed to spend just two weeks after the World Cup but then something was wrong with the construction and there was a big delay, so I just asked the club if I can stay for another two weeks to finish everything,” he explained.

“And you see in the media that they threatened to sack me, but I just told them that there is a lot of things more [important] than rugby and one of them is family, because rugby will be finished at one time but family will be with you a long time.

“So, I told them: ‘If you want to do anything then you do anything, but I am staying these two weeks to look after my family, because everything is my family’.

He happily admits that he was in the habit of coming back late from visiting his native Fiji but feels that Racing could have been more sympathetic to his circumstances.

“I always come back one week or two weeks late because Fiji is so far away, travelling to Fiji is three days,” he reasoned. “So, that’s the reason I came back late – just to look after my family, sort out everything for my family.

“I think it was not acceptable to the Racing club, so I was surprised at first but after that I thought: ‘That’s fine, I think my family is more important than playing rugby’.”

Recovery mode

Warriors head coach Dave Rennie has been circumspect so far about when Nakarawa will return to action for Warriors, but it certainly won’t be in this weekend’s must-win (with a bonus-point) clash against Exeter Chiefs at Scotstoun in the Champions Cup.

The 31-year-old has not played since Fiji’s World Cup departure just under three months ago and only returned to training during the last fortnight. He did not run with the squad during this morning’s session but is a natural athlete and looked in pretty decent nick.

“One of the things I’ve learned from my past few years playing rugby is [the importance of] recovery,” he said. “You have to rest well. Recovery is training, so these last few months I have been recovering and I have spent a lot of time doing everything for my family and house back at home.

“It is up to the coaches but for the time being I am just learning the plays and getting back to my fitness.

“One of the reasons it was easy for me to come back here is that I know a lot of the boys so it will be easy for me and much quicker to adapt to the plays and get back to playing rugby.”

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About David Barnes 3663 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.