Friday 20 April 2018

Rhys set to lead in Isa's absence

Club captain Nacewa may be back for the Cheetahs match

Rhys Ruddock in action for Leinster against Cardiff during the Guinness Pro 14 match at the RDS. Photo: Sportsfile
Rhys Ruddock in action for Leinster against Cardiff during the Guinness Pro 14 match at the RDS. Photo: Sportsfile

It is not the mistakes you make, but how you react to them that leads to growth.

This goes for players, for coaches and for all arms of any business organisation inside and outside sport.

The Isa Nacewa-Jamison Gibson Park 'turn back' from Johannesburg was not Leinster's proudest administrative moment.

Long before they departed these shores, they were described as 'the guinea pig' for the rest of the non-South African PRO14 clubs travelling to the southern hemisphere.

Little did they know how true this would turn out to be.

"It's not always perfect, when you go away from home there's things that can go wrong," said scrum coach John Fogarty, even before Nacewa and Gibson-Park's passport issues came to light.

"The bus can be late, this, that and the other and you see some people getting ruffled and upset.

"I don't get upset when that happens; chaos can appear from anywhere and so you tend to just sit back and let it happen. That's something we can learn from last year," he said.


"If there's a little bit of chaos that we encounter when we travel - as a group it's something we should be prepare d for and accept and get on with."

For, the tired cliche is true. T he players can only control the controlables and this was out of their hands.

There is often the temptation to cloud such a calamity in confusion in order to deflect responsibility.

Afterall, the PRO14, the South African end of the argument and the individuals themselves could be on the hook for not knowing about a January change in New Zealand law, now requiring a visa for their citizens to enter South Africa.

Instead, Guy Easterby, Head of Rugby Operations, took one for the whole team.

"As of 16 January 2017 a visa is required for New Zealand nationals entering South Africa," he said in a Leinster statement yesterday.

"Unfortunately, this visa was not applied for by Leinster Rugby on behalf of Jamison Gibson-Park and Isa Nacewa in advance of the squad leaving Dublin Airport on Tuesday afternoon.

"It was only brought to our attention upon landing into Johannesburg that this was now a requirement.

"This was clearly an administrative oversight on our part and a valuable lesson has been learned."

Nothing kills a story quicker than an admission of guilt.

This moves the finger of interest away from Nacewa and Gibson-Park and on to Nick McCarthy's arrival in South Africa yesterday.

The novice scrum-half will surely sit in behind Luke McGrath for the Southern Kings on Saturday.

Coach Leo Cullen feels there is enough cover to do without Nacewa at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

The odds must favour Noel Reid to make his first start of the season with the effective Fergus McFadden another option at twelve.


However, there is every possibility Nacewa could rejoin Leinster over the weekend after due consideration is given to the state of the squad.

The Southern Kings are estimated to be the lesser of the two challenges facing Leinster. Therefore, Cullen can feel more at ease with the disruption than he would were The Cheetahs first up.

In Nacewa's place, Rhys Ruddock will assume the role of the primary leader.

For all of Leinster's problems, they could well target the Kings front row, as props Ettienne Swanepoel and Rossouw De Klerk are unavailable due to concussion.

This is an area of strength for The Blues, who can afford to leave British and Irish Lions Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong as well as injured Ireland international Richardt Strauss (knee) at home.

The odds must favour the retention of Michael Bent at tight-head and Cian Healy at loose-head, with either James Tracy or Sean Cronin in the middle of the front row.

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