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Friday 9 December 2016

Nacewa believes Leinster can scale European summit again

Leinster’s Isa Nacewa at the 2016/17 European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup launch at the Convention Centre, Dublin yesterday. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Leinster’s Isa Nacewa at the 2016/17 European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup launch at the Convention Centre, Dublin yesterday. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Is the rivalry of Leinster and Munster becoming nothing more than a dress-rehearsal for The Champions Cup?

This is the theory peddled at ferocious pace as the two former foremost clubs in Europe continue their push to reclaim ground lost to the French and English.

Leinster captain Isa Nacewa did little to counter the argument at the launch of the PRO12 League branch of The Champions Cup in Dublin yesterday.

"It's the game you need before Europe," he said. "I've been part of some great occasions and I think this one will be just as good.

"You want that type of hit-out before the European campaign comes."

Where previously Leinster and Munster have been able to bank the League as a Plan B when their European dreams were shattered, it is now the main meal on the menu, on the balance of all probabilities. The significance of this inter-provincial derby is something that stayed with Nacewa when on, what turned out to be, a sabbatical at home.

"It's probably one of the biggest things I missed going back to New Zealand, the thought of not being involved in another Leinster-Munster game.

Intensity

"It starts on the Monday and just builds itself," he said. "The intensity in training, the added dimension that these guys were in (Ireland) camp together on Monday and then they'll be ready to get stuck into one another the following day.

"It's a beautiful week. So much history and you feel that even in the training."

There is the clash of cultures, the individual battles, like Jamie Heaslip against CJ Stander, and there is the importance of points on the PRO12 board.

"You look at what Rassie (Erasmus) has done at Munster and their four out of five is similar to us."

Nacewa has become as much Leinster as those who were born and bred there.

He was a central character in building a culture that had slipped in recent years.

"I want to win when I play Munster. I don't want to do anything else," he said.

"I don't want to think about anything else. But, it's about making sure we improve on our performance from last week."

There is a burning desire and belief that Leinster can scale the European heights again.

"Absolutely. Why not? I can't speak for Munster but we are heading in the direction that we want to."

The production line is working well too. The Leinster squad of 41 for Europe includes Academy members in backs Joey Carbery, Rory O'Loughlin and Nick McCarthy and prop forward Andrew Porter.

"It's been a great off-season and our current group of players, the camaraderie amongst us is great."

The bond of brotherhood will be tested over the next three weeks.

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