Ulster pull the plug on Leone Nakarawa deal after medical report

Former Glasgow Warriors and Fiji star has struggled for form and fitness in recent seasons

Leone Nakarawa's move to Ulster next season has fallen through. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Leone Nakarawa's move to Ulster next season has fallen through. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

ULSTER have announced that former Glasgow Warriors star Leone Nakarawa will not now join the province on a 12-month deal next season after he failed a medical.

“We can today confirm that, on receipt of a detailed medical report following an examination by the club at the weekend, Leone Nakarawa will no longer be joining Ulster Rugby for next season,” said a clubs spokesperson.

“This outcome is disappointing for both the player and Ulster Rugby, however, we will continue to build strongly with our preparations for next season. We wish Leone the very best for the future.Further updates on the 2021-22 season squad will be released in due course.” 

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The recruitment of the Fijian forward was announced by Ulster in January as a like-for-like replacement for South African Marcell Coetzee (who is returning home to play on a three-year deal to play for the Bulls next season) – but Nakarawa (who was a superstar for Glasgow Warriors during his first spell at the club between 2013 and 2016) has not been the player he was in his prime since at least as far back as the 2019 World Cup.

The 2018 European Player of the Year was fired by Racing 92 in December 2019 after returning late to the club following the World Cup, being accused of “a total lack of team spirit and marked insubordination” and of “abandoning his post”.

He re-joined Glasgow Warriors in January 2020 on a short-term deal but a combination of not being match fit, injury and the early end to the season caused by Covid meant he managed only three appearances during the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign

He still managed to pick up a year long deal with the Scotstoun outfit last summer, but the 33-year-old’s fitness and form has been abysmal since his late return to Warriors from lockdown at the tail-end of 2020, and he managed just three starts and four bench appearances between mid-January and early April.

He has not featured for the club since playing the final 19 minutes of the team’s lacklustre 46-19 loss at the start of their Rainbow Cup campaign, but has not been listed as injured. Quite simply, he did not merit a place in the match-day squad ahead of Scott Cummings, Rob Harley, Richie Gray and Kiran McDonald.

Nakarawa is out of contract at Glasgow this summer. It is not clear what his next step will be, or even if he will choose to stay in professional rugby.

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About David Barnes 2991 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.


  1. I think if Naka loses that lockdown podge, gets as fit as he can, he’ll be an asset to any team. However, I doubt it’ll be Glasgow that’ll give him the chance of redemption.

  2. I know a lot of people have a big attachment to the guy, as do I, and this may be an unpopular opinion. But a lot of his situation is of his own doing. I don’t think Glasgow should take him back. Our squad is in no need of him in his current form.

    • perhaps.

      He isn’t going to Ulster because of anything he has done or to do with fitness or application. He failed a medical. The reason for failing it might be the reason for a fitness issue or more, not the other way around. Plyers always have a medical before contract fully signed, he isn’t the first to fail one, won’t be the last. Now that he has failed it, it will be difficult to get a deal anywhere unless the issue is remedied, and at his age, it looks bleak.

      So I hope it is not too serious and wish him well. I don’t think rugby has ever seen his like before or since those all to short golden years.

  3. Come on Warriors, keep him on and let him finish off his career with a bang. He’s still a great player and will surely take a pay cut after this latest setback.

    • I don’t think there’s any indication he is motivated to stay in top-class rugby except to pick up a pay check.

      He hasn’t earned his place and unless he stayed with the club out of contract to get fit and that opened up an opportunity to win a new contract, I can’t see a single justifiable business decision to keep him on.

      It’s a shame but it happens, there are more important things in life than rugby and if he wants to stay with his family in Fiji he should move back there. Maybe Fijian Drua might offer him a place if he got fit.

  4. Meadowlark’s first spell at Glasgow was superb and he was a real loss, but seemed to go off the rails after that. Insubordination did not help his case in Paris, while he never really grabbed his second chance at Glasgow for reasons both within and outside of his control. His return was a major disappointment and to be brutal not worth the money. Feel sorry for the guy, for I have many good memories of him. And forget the ‘like for like’ comparison with Coetzee, for Leone was a one off. Don’t know where he goes from here.

    • I think the Racing experience did not help though.
      I think there was not the same camaraderie like in Glasgow.
      Same for Niko’s experience in England.
      Glasgow was there home!
      They suddenly arrived in a tough pro environment.
      Not like a family to dig for!

      • It is a telling tribute that both players returned to Glasgow, where obviously they felt at home. Nico had to reinvent himself as a winger, but he made a good contribution and I’ll be sad to see him go. But Glasgow have kicked on with a new generation and I look forward to following their progress, both on tour and throughout next season. Meanwhile back in Paris, Finn sails serenely onwards. For me his game has matured and he is a Lions stand-off in waiting.

  5. Watching Leone in that first spell was just a total joy. A total inspiration and a nice humble guy. So sad to see where his second stint with the Warriors has ended up.

  6. It is SO sad to see Leone in this situation!
    Leone and Niko will leave great memories, a joy to watch these two guys, did so much to reach and win the 2015 championship.
    All the best for the future.

    • difficult to add to that Hugues. Lets just treasure the memories, my goodness he was a bit good

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