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Nacewa back in eager to get Blue

ISA NACEWA is a man in a hurry.

Playing catch-up is not something that the influential Aucklander is all that accustomed to, but having missed out on the festive and New Year programme he is, as he readily admits himself, "absolutely gunning" to get back to action.

"Ask any player and they'll tell you that missing games is the hardest part about being a sportsman," the 30-year-old revealed ahead of tomorrow night's Heineken Cup Round 5 showdown in the RDS.

"Even though you're in the squad, you're outside the day-to-day match preparations and it can be frustrating. Thankfully I have only missed the last three weeks or so, but for the other guys like Drico (Brian O'Driscoll), Kearns (Rob Kearney) and especially Luke (Fitzgerald), who has been out since the end of last season, it must have been really hard.

"I think that you could see what playing for Leinster meant to each of those guys last weekend. They must have been struggling at times during the match, because you're always going to be short of match fitness after a long lay-off, but they showed so much heart to stay out there and keep on fighting to help ensure we got the bonus-point win.

"I thought that Luke especially looked really sharp, especially considering that he has been out the longest time of the three. And I can honestly say that if their attitude and desire is a benchmark for us coming into these two huge games, then we'll be in a good position by the end of the Pool stages."

Nacewa suffered deep bone bruising to his arm in the last Heineken Cup round against ASM Clermont Auvergne in mid-December which subsequently curtailed his involvement in recent times.

While some may see the benefit of getting the chance to relax and enjoy the Christmas period, that is a notion which Nacewa immediately refutes.

"This year was the first year that I have missed the Christmas interprovincials since I arrived (in the summer of 2008) and that was hard for me because I love playing against the other provinces.

"With the festive feel and the fact that you're invariably playing in front of full houses, you want to be out there trying to help the team.

"We were unlucky against Ulster up in Ravenhill, but showed a lot of determination and character to bounce back against Connacht at home the following week, especially with so many of the experienced players on the sidelines.

"So that performance, allied to the bonus-point win in Edinburgh, shows that we're building week by week now. And we'll need to build once more because the Scarlets are going to come here looking to attack us.

"They are a team who can hurt us and the memory of that opening defeat in the PRO12 isn't far from our minds because they dominated us that day and we learned a few harsh lessons. In the Round 2 Heineken Cup in Parc y Scarlets we needed to show an improvement and we did, with our forwards really stepping up and getting the upper hand in the last quarter of the match.

"And if we're going to try and get the win this weekend we'll need to go up another level because they can hurt you from lots of areas around the park.

"Their loose forward trio is one of the strongest around and their skilful offloads can change a game.

Powerful

"In the backs, even though they have a few injuries, they still have an array of powerful runners who play with great pace in the best traditions of Llanelli rugby. They are a proud side who will come over here with the sole aim of getting a win, so we're aware of the danger they will pose."

In the ERC Round 2 fixture won 20-13 by Leinster, Nacewa gathered a high ball expertly assisted by some quick thinking by Jonathan Sexton - in an athletic manner which wouldn't be out of place on a Gaelic field - which helped push the visitors over the line.

With a smile at the suggestion, Nacewa reflected and deflected, "I don't know about that. It was nice to get on the end of a try, but it was a great bit of quick thinking by Sexto'."

After scrambling through against Exeter Chiefs in Round 1, it was an important victory especially with the Rounds 3 and 4 double-header against ASM Clermont Auvergne reaping a brace of losing bonus points. Leinster know now that they have to win both this weekend and next - and hope other sides can do the province a favour.

"It's a slightly unusual route that we're taking this year and it's the first time that we have to rely on others to help us qualify. But all that we can do is concentrate on our own performances and make sure that we're in a strong position in the event of other teams slipping up.

"With the exception of Harlequins, Clermont and Toulon, there are very few teams racing clear in Europe this year which shows that standards have risen once more. Sides are chipping away at one another and the next two rounds are going to be gripping.

"We're not thinking about bonus points or losing the run of ourselves because victories are hard enough to earn without other distractions. Every one of the players loves playing in the RDS and with a full house, it should really make for a special atmosphere.

"The Scarlets are one of the best counter-attacking threats around and we will have to nullify their threats. We have the utmost respect for them.

"For us this weekend it's all about winning and that's our sole focus."