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Leinster still hold a place in Isa Nacewa's heart

By Michael Sadlier

Every day, Isa Nacewa misses Dublin and every day he misses it in a different way.

Some days it's the walk along the pier in Dun Laoghaire. Others, it's browsing around the food market in the People's Park, meeting familiar faces, occasionally being assailed by the chorus of familiar recognition. "ISA!"

Mostly, though, it's the RDS, a place where he hopes to return at the end of this month to witness his beloved Leinster assume once more that familiar position , as he enjoyed five times with the province, of raising silverware to the heavens in glorious triumph.

"That's the one thing I really miss the most," he says, "playing at the RDS on an awesome evening. The fans there chanting your name and were getting behind the team. It was a really special place in my heart."

It was a spiritual place for five years but, even though he is back home in Auckland, a little bit of Dublin remains rooted in his sense of self.

He still watches Leinster's games, regardless of time zones; so too every step of Ireland's Six Nations title win under 'Mr Rugby' – his sobriquet for Joe Schmidt.

One of Irish rugby's finest imports, the exigencies of the IRFU's player succession plan forced him to leave Leinster last season at aged just 30; rumours of him playing once more for his local club have left him bemused.

Despite not being bitter about the decision to force him to quit ahead of time, the current mental skills coach at Super 15 side Auckland Blues never had any intention of playing again.

He left Leinster at the peak of his and their powers; he has no desire to return vainly to quest past glories. Life moves on. So has he.

"There was a rumour that I might turn out for my club here," he smiles. "I don't even own a pair of boots to be honest! I've not really been tempted. It's been almost a year to the day since I played my last game.

"It's been a load of fun doing other sports which has kept me busy. I've played three games of golf this year! It's been good to get back into it. I've done lots of surfing. I can access both coastlines, either western Auckland or else Northland.

"It's been nice kicking back into other things.

"You can't dwell on any of that situation with me having to leave. I'm not bitter about any of it. I had five successful seasons at Leinster which nobody can take away from me.

"We're in another chapter of our lives. You just roll with it and get on with it. It's called living."

And yet, as you recall seeing him on the pitch before the recent home wins for Auckland against Australian teams Waratahs and Reds, you probe him for evidence of an unscratchable itch to play, even just one more time; it is impossible for him to conceal it. It is difficult; but he must.

"You definitely get one, yeah," he concedes. "I'm with the Blues the whole weekend and on game day. I have to pinch myself when the teams are warming up, in those 30 minutes before kick-off, you think you're part of the team.

"Jeez, if you're standing in Eden Park with kick-off approaching, of course I'd love to run out there.

"But I'm looking at things from a different perspective here. Nobody can take away the success and the fun times I've had at Leinster. I couldn't picture myself playing for anyone else. I still watch every single Leinster game. I just couldn't see myself pulling on another jersey to be honest."

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