Leone Nakarawa says it felt like he had hardly been away when he joined up with the Glasgow Warriors squad for training this week. The Fijian superstar lock has returned to the club where he first made his mark as a professional player between 2013 and 2016 after being sacked by Racing 92, and says that not even the hostile weather conditions can dampen his mood.
“The weather is not a big problem for me. The one thing is I feel welcome from the club and all the boys – that’s the main thing,” said the 31-year-old, who was European Player of the Year in 2018.
“I feel at home with the boys,” he added. “I feel like I never left – like I went for a holiday for three years and came back.
“With everything I have been going through the last couple of months, I decided to come back to where everything started. This is where my professional rugby career started so that is the main reason why I chose to come back to Glasgow.
“It didn’t feel weird at all coming back to the changing room. I can see the same faces I saw a few years ago. I feel like one of the boys again and they welcomed me. I just came back and started up again.”
Nakawara found himself a free agent last month after being shown the door by Racing 92 in response to his late arrival back at the club following the World Cup.
He says he was initially surprised by Racing’s response but has no regrets about his decision to stay out in his native Fiji for that extra fortnight.
“I had an issue with my house. I was supposed to spend just two weeks after the World Cup but then something was wrong with the construction and there was a big delay, so I just asked the club if I can stay for another two weeks just to finish everything,” he explained. “And you see in the media that they threatened to sack me, but I just told them that there is a lot of things more [important] than rugby and one of them is family, because rugby will be finished at one time but family will be with you a long time.
“So, I told them: ‘If you want to do anything then you do anything, but I am staying these two weeks to look after my family because everything is my family’.
“I always come back one week or two weeks late because Fiji is so far away – travelling to Fiji is three days,” he added. “So, that’s the reason I came back late – just to look after my family, sort out everything for my family.
“I think it was not acceptable to the Racing club, so I was surprised at first but after that I thought: ‘That’s fine, I think my family is more important than playing rugby’.
Warriors head coach Dave Rennie has not slated Nakarawa to play in this weekend’s Champions Cup clash against Exeter Chiefs (which Warriors really need to win with a bonus point to keep alive their dream of making the quarter-finals) and the player was non-committal about when his return to action might be – although he did indicate that he is feeling pretty close to match-ready, despite having only been back in training for the last two weeks of the three months since the World Cup finished.
Certainly, he looked in pretty good nick at training at Scotstoun yesterday, although he did not work with the rest of the squad.
“One of the things I’ve learned from my past few years playing rugby is [the importance of] recovery,” he said. “You have to rest well. Recovery is training, so these last few months I have been recovering and I have spent a lot of time doing everything for my family and house back at home.
“It is up to the coaches but for the time being I am just learning the plays and getting back to my fitness.
“One of the reasons it was easy for me to come back here is that I know a lot of the boys so it will be easy for me and much quicker to adapt to the plays and get back to playing rugby.”