GLASGOW WARRIORS have taken a major step towards easing fans’ anxieties about the strength of the squad for next season by announcing that Fijian international Leone Nakarawa has extended his stay with the club until the summer of 2021.
After the departures of Scotland caps Jonny Gray [to Exeter Chiefs] and Tim Swinson [initially to retirement and then to Saracens], plus youngsters Andrew Davidson and Marshall Sykes [both to Edinburgh], Warriors looked pretty thin on the ground in terms of second-row options going into the 2020-21 campaign, but this piece of business means that they now have three proven internationalists to choose from in that key area in Nakarawa, Scott Cummings and Richie Gray, plus youngster Hamish Bain is expected to be unveiled in the next few weeks.
Nakarawa first came to prominence in Europe playing for Warriors between 2013 and 2016, picking up the man-of-the-match award for a breathtaking display of free-wheeling rugby in the 2015 PRO12 Grand Final success over Munster.
His physicality blended with sublime ball-handling skills inevitably caught the eye of some of the biggest clubs in Europe and he moved to Racing 92 in the summer of 2016, where he earned the European Player of the Season accolade in 2017-18. But it wasn’t all swings and roundabouts in Paris and his stint there came to an abrupt end when he was sacked for returning late from the 2019 World Cup.
Warriors swooped in to offer the 2016 Olympic Sevens gold medal winner a short-term deal for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, and there has been plenty speculation since then about whether Nakarawa would stay on at Scotstoun on a longer term deal or be lured away once again by the bright lights and deep pockets of English and French club rugby.
According to Warriors, this deal was agreed before the Covid-19 crisis struck, and it seems that a combination of wanting to wait until new head coach Danny Wilson was in the hot-seat and a sensitivity towards announcing new signings at a time when all of Scottish Rugby is facing significant retrenchment meant that the news was kept under wraps until today.
“Leone is a world-class rugby player and a really exciting addition to Warriors squad for next season,” said Wilson. “His reputation as an attacking threat goes before him and as a coach I know from experience how difficult he is to prepare against.”
“Leone offers expertise and experience in a variety of positions in the pack and I know how popular he is with players and supports. I’m looking forward to working with him as we move forward into the new season and conclude the 2019/20 season.”
Nakarawa is currently in Fiji and will remain and train in the country until August as he awaits the birth of his child, meaning he is unlikely to play in either of the club’s remaining two PRO14 regular season matches against Edinburgh on 22nd and 29th August.