Leone Nakarawa told to get match-fit by Glasgow Warriors coach Danny Wilson

Glasgow Warriors coach Danny Wilson has warned Leone Nakarawa that he has a lot of work to do to get his match-fitness up to speed for the remainder of the season.

Leone Nakarawa will leave Glasgow Warriors to join Ulster in the summer. Picture: Ross MacDonald/SNS

The Fijian forward, who has agreed a deal to join Ulster in the summer, looked out of sorts during the first half of Sunday’s 40-21 defeat by Leinster in Dublin. He was taken off at the break and replaced by young Gregor Brown who impressed on his Warriors debut.

A combination of the lockdown and a knee injury meant Nakarawa did not play for Glasgow for 11 months last year. He made his return as a substitute in the win over Edinburgh in January, then started in the home defeat by Ulster last month. He retained his place for the Leinster match but seemed to struggle with the pace of the game.

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“He’s got a lot of work to do, if I’m being brutally honest,” said Wilson of the experienced lock’s fitness.

“Obviously Leone is coming back from a long-term knee injury and we took him off at half-time and brought Gregor Brown on, who I thought brought real energy.”

Nakarawa’s second spell with Glasgow has struggled to live up to his initial stint at the club. A popular player with the Scotstoun faithful, he helped Warriors win the Pro12 in 2015 with a man of the match performance in the final against Munster.

He secured a lucrative move to Racing 92 later that year and was named European player of the year in 2018. However, his time in France ended on a sour note when his contract was terminated after he failed to return from the 2019 Rugby World Cup on time.

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He rejoined the Warriors in January last year and played three times before flying to Fiji when lockdown arrived. He was late returning when rugby resumed and was then ruled out with a knee injury and didn’t play again in 2020.

Asked if he was tempted to look to the future and exclude Nakarawa for the remainder of the season, Wilson replied: “I think Leone has had a long time out the game, that’s the first thing I would say. And any player who has been out the game for a long period of time needs a bit of time to get back into things.

“And I’m sure that Leone will bounce back to that type of form by getting more match-fit and through the knee and leg being more comfortable in games.

“He’s fit to play but we probably need to get him match fit.

“At the same time, I understand what you are saying. He’s leaving and therefore we do need to make sure that we’ve got the right players getting development.

“You do want your experienced, quality rugby players out there to help bring the develop and bring the youngsters through.

“We’ll see how the next few weeks go with that process.”

Wilson said he was impressed by teenager Brown in Dublin.

“He’s another young academy player, another exciting player for the future. At 19 years of age, playing away at the RDS, I thought he did some good things. He did make some mistakes, and we’re going to have to be patient with some of these young boys, but he did well.”

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