Ulster have announced the signing of Fijian international Leone Nakarawa from Glasgow Warriors on a one-year deal ahead of the 2021-22 season.
Although predominantly a lock forward, Ulster’s graphic on Twitter had him listed as a back row, an indication of where he will play next season.
Nakarawa will join from PRO14 rivals Glasgow Warriors, where he is regarded as a influencial figure. The 32 year old was a stand out performer in their victorious 2014-15 campaign rounding off with a man-of-the-match performance against Munster in the final as they eased home 31-13.
An Olympic gold medalist in 2016, he joined Racing 92 after his exploits in Rio de Janeiro and made 86 appearances in two and a half seasons but was sacked when he did not report back to his club after the 2019 World Cup. The Paris side accused him of “abandoning his post” showing “a total lack of team spirit and marked insubordination” and setting a “deplorable example” to his team mates.
He rejoined his former club after his exit from Racing but has only made three appearances for the Scottish side since he arrived in January 2020.
The FRU reaction
On a one-year deal, I can’t see his contract being renewed regardless of how well he plays in the white shirt next season.
I still think that David McCann is the one to watch in the back row and hope that he can nail down a regular starting spot next season.
Nakarawa’s swash-buckling style of play certainly suits how Ulster have performed this season and he will attract defenders and will allow the back to exploit the space thanks to his terrific ball handling skills.
It’s definitely a signing that will please the fans but at 32 years of age and struggling with a knee injury after almost a year out, I’m not expecting him to hit the heights that he did in his first spell in Glasgow or when he was with Racing. If he gets regular game time he has the potential to be a useful short term signing.
Information on the internet about his injury history is sketchy due to playing in France from 2016-2019.
- He had not played for 11 months before he appeared off the bench in Glasgow’s most recent 1872 cup success due to a period of extended leave in Fiji and a knee injury.
- February 2020 – the aforementioned knee injury that was only supposed to keep him out for six weeks.
- September 2015 – groin injury kept him out for 10 days