Sunday 24 February 2019

Isa's brother plans a 42,000km journey for his final showdown

Isa Nacewa's big brother Ilaisa is making the long trip to see him play
Isa Nacewa's big brother Ilaisa is making the long trip to see him play

Leinster fans will make the pilgrimage to Bilbao in Northern Spain to watch their side in the Champions Cup final tomorrow.

However, some are coming from even further afield to watch Leo Cullen's men in their first European Cup final in six years.

One of those is Ilaisa Nacewa, the brother of Leinster legend Isa, who is travelling from New Zealand to watch his little brother line-out in the blue jersey.

"We'll spend about 52 hours in the air and travel 42,000 kilometres to watch 80 minutes of rugby," said Ilaisa.

While the two-hour flight to Bilbao will be the longest trip of the season for many Leinster fans, just making it to Dublin was something of an epic journey for Ilaisa.

"We had to go from Auckland to Dubai, which is about 16-and-a-half hours, and then it was another six-anda-half hours to Dublin.

"By the end of the journey, we had been travelling for about 26 hours."

His brother Isa had already retired from rugby in 2013, before returning to Leinster in 2015, and last month the 35-year-old Fijian international announced he will be retiring from the game for good at the end of this season.


The announcement inspired Ilaisa to make the trip to Europe so he could watch his brother play competitive rugby for the last time.

"The whole time Isa has been playing for Leinster I've never actually seen him," Ilaisa said.

"Last year I thought, 'Right, I need to sort this out'. He'd already retired once and he won't be playing forever.

"With the flights over here and the flights to Bilbao, it has cost me about NZ$3,000. Not sure I'd do that to watch the All Blacks in a World Cup final, but they'll often do that every four years, and Isa won't do this again."

Australia-based Leinster fan Shane Barr faces a similar journey, travelling more than 17,000km from his home in Sydney to watch the final.

"I leave Sydney Friday lunchtime, fly to Hong Kong, then into London and arrive in Bilbao at about half past 10 on Friday.

"In total it will probably cost me around A$5,000 (€3,000).

"I played rugby in Leinster for a few years and lived in Dublin and have a great affinity with the place and the players."

Surprisingly, cool weather is forecast for tomorrow in Bilbao, with showers and highs of only 14 degrees predicted.

This may come as a disappointment for some Leinster fans, Barr included.

"We're having a bit of an Indian summer here in Sydney at the moment. There is definitely going to be a bit of an adjustment period when I step off the plane in Bilbao."

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