It has been rumoured for some time that the Fijian, who was a standout performer at last year’s World Cup, would be ending his Glasgow contract a year early and most likely joining European Champions Cup finalists Racing 92 when the season ends.
Nakarawa’s destination is yet to be confirmed, with a Warriors statement saying that “details of Leone’s new club will be announced by them in due course” but Townsend said that the deal agreed for the release of the player “has allowed us to strengthen our squad for next season”.
The 28-year-old joined Glasgow in 2013 and has played 66 times from the Guinness Pro12 champions, including a man-of-the-match performance in the historic final win over Munster in Belfast last May.
Townsend said: “Leone has attracted a lot of interest from other clubs due to the form he’s been in over the last year.
“During the Rugby World Cup a lot of clubs were interested in signing him and, although we were looking to retain him, we have now agreed to let Leone leave a year early.
“Right from when there was interest in him I’ve been fully involved with Scottish Rugby in the discussions with Leone and his agent, and the deal which was subsequently agreed has allowed us to strengthen our squad for next season.
“Leone has been a fantastic player for the club and has been a pleasure to coach. He has worked hard and developed into one of the best second-rows in the world during the past three years.”
Nakarawa, with his dynamic off-loading game, has become a firm fans’ favourite and will be sorely missed by the Scotstoun faithful, a feeling which the player said would be mutual.
“These types of opportunities only come around once and I couldn’t turn it down,” he told glasgowwarriors.org.
“I’ll miss all of the players, but I’ll still keep in touch with them as I get on with them all so well.
“This is a new challenge which I’m looking forward to, but that is next season and my focus just now is trying to retain the Guinness Pro12 trophy and end my time at the club on a high.
“Glasgow Warriors have helped me a lot with the coaches and backroom staff improving my game and making me stronger.
“I’d also like to thank the Glasgow supporters for making me feel so welcome.”
Townsend, who will today name his team to face Zebre at home tomorrow night, added: “Leone has worked very hard to improve and has shown on numerous occasions how much he cares for his team-mates and this club.
“We will rightly remember his outstanding game in last year’s Guinness Pro12 final, but his performance this season at home to Leinster was equally as impressive. Following an injury to Peter Murchie, Leone became our captain in the second half and really stepped up for his team-mates, making smart decisions and putting his body on the line in defence.
“We are looking forward to Leone delivering similar performances as we enter a very exciting run of games at the end of this season.”
Glasgow announced yesterday that a number of other players would be released when the season wraps up.
Props Jerry Yanuyanutawa and Javan Sebastian, backrowers Tyrone Holmes, Will Bordill and Jason Hill, hookers Shalva Mamukashvili and Fergus Scott and stand-off Gregor Hunter will also be leaving the club.
Townsend said: “We’d like to thank all those who are leaving us at the end of the season for the contributions they’ve made to the club.”