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'Fierce' Leinster-Munster rivalry still matters as much as ever - Nacewa


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Former Leinster player Isa Nacewa teamed up with Guinness to reveal limited edition Guinness x BuJo Rugby at Home Kits, perfect for the ultimate rugby at home celebration. Photo: INPHO

Former Leinster player Isa Nacewa teamed up with Guinness to reveal limited edition Guinness x BuJo Rugby at Home Kits, perfect for the ultimate rugby at home celebration. Photo: INPHO

©INPHO/Isa Nacewa

Former Leinster player Isa Nacewa teamed up with Guinness to reveal limited edition Guinness x BuJo Rugby at Home Kits, perfect for the ultimate rugby at home celebration. Photo: INPHO

Isa Nacewa bristles at the mere suggestion of the Leinster-Munster rivalry not being as hotly contested as it once was.

For someone who no longer has skin in the game, Nacewa is as passionate now as he was when he was a key player in Irish rugby's biggest game.

Squad rotation and other intervening factors have meant that both teams are not always fully locked and loaded when they meet, and while Leinster are in the comfortable position in which they can juggle their personnel this weekend, Munster must win at all costs.

Nacewa is counting down the days to Saturday when he will set his alarm for the early hours from his home in New Zealand.

"I never understood all the commentary around the rivalry being gone," the former Leinster captain said.

"It got worse and worse every single year, it got fiercer and fiercer every single year that I was there.

"And a player doesn't look at who is being rested or what schedule he is on, or why he's not involved in this Munster week, blah blah blah. We don't think like that, and players have never thought like that.

"It's the biggest week of the year. You have to be on point, there is a different buzz about it, and it just got fiercer and fiercer. That's the beauty about longevity and the trivial warfare of a Leinster-Munster match.

"If professionalism got in the way and started dampened that, then it's time to start watching a different sport. But that never left in my years there.

"It just got bigger and bigger every single week no matter what being said about it, and that is the same today."

Like everyone else, Nacewa has been hugely impressed by Munster's transfer business in attracting World Cup winners RG Snyman and Damian de Allende to Limerick.

Widely regarded as Irish rugby's greatest ever import, Nacewa knows just how important it is to sign quality overseas players who buy into the culture of the club.

"He is a specimen, RG Snyman - there is no doubt," Nacewa said of the giant South African lock.

"When you have someone who has the speed to go along with that and probably a different skill-set from the rest, I think that's what lifts and will continue to lift the Munster forwards to a new level maybe.

"Certain individuals have the physique and the skill level and the work ethic. That changes the attitude of those around them.

"It's no different to Brad Thorn and the influence he had throughout all the different clubs around the world.

"I definitely think it will add a huge string to Munster's bow, but then also just lift the calibre there to another level. That's the only way I can describe it.

"I don't know what Munster have been doing, I never have known what they are doing, but from a Leinster point of view, I know there was a lot of effort put into skill development in the time off.

"Games can be tight and when they come down to the crunch, it's usually a small point of skill that makes a difference at the end of the day.'

Meanwhile, Fergus McFadden's bid to go out on his own terms with a socially distant Leinster send-off is now unlikely to come to pass.

With the worst timing, the former Ireland winger popped his calf in training last week and faces six weeks on the sidelines.

Given he's only under contract until the end of this season and, if they are still going in a month and a half Leinster will be playing finals rugby, the Kildare native may have already played his final game.

Herald