Waratahs in race for Nakarawa after Fijian star gets sacked by Racing Metro

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten and wires

Brilliant Fijian star Leone Nakawara could be a shock signing by the Waratahs for the 2020 season after the skilful lock was sacked by Racing 92 for returning late from the Rugby World Cup.

Nakawara, who was a member of the Fijian gold-medal-winning sevens team in Rio in 2016, got back to Paris two weeks late after taking a holiday in Fiji and was sacked Racing 92 owner Jacky Lorenzetti for "insubordination".

Such is Nakawara's talent, multiple clubs in England and Scotland have been mentioned as being keen to sign the 31-year-old but media reports in France also included the Waratahs as a potential new club for Nakawara.

RUGBY.com.au understands Nakawara is keen to test himself in Super Rugby and the Waratahs have been in contact with the Fijian's management team.

The Waratahs would not be able to match the huge money that Nakawara will be offered by European clubs but in their favour is Nakawara's interest in Super Rugby, and that a neat window of opportunity has now opened up for him to play a season of Super Rugby before returning to Europe in August for the following 2020-21 season.

New Waratahs coach Rob Penney has spoken about being on the lookout for damaging ball-runners, and they don't come much more damaging than Nakawara; who plays lock but has the handling and athleticism of a back.


Interestingly, however, one of the Waratahs' main rivals for Nakawara will be new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie.

Nakawara was at Glasgow prior to his move to France and Rennie said on Saturday was he was definitely keen to re-sign the Fijian lock for the rest of the season.

Nakawara has played played 57 times for Fiji, at three World Cups, and routinely gets listed as a World XV player. He won the best in player in Europe award in 2018.

Racing 92 got fed up with him, however, after he took an extended holiday after the 2019 World Cup and missed two matches.

The club announced its decision on Friday.

"This decision... Follows the proven disciplinary breaches of Mr Leone Nakarawa who, in particular, did not show up for the scheduled resumption of training on 28 October 2019," the club said in a statement, adding that the 31-year-old forward "refused to reply to the messages the club sent to him" while he was in Fiji.

Nakarawa "simply set his own return date", said the statement, "presenting the club with a fait accompli and deliberately missing the matches against Stade Francais on 3 November and the first European Cup match against Saracens on 17 November".

 

Racing 92 beat Stade comfortably but lost 19-13 to reigning European champions Saracens.

The 1.98m, 104kg lock was voted player of the year in Europe in 2018. He scored a try in the final as Fiji won the Olympic sevens in 2016 and started every game at this year's World Cup, either in the second row or at No. 8, as Fiji finished third in Pool D.

Nakarawa was suspended on his return and then summoned for a disciplinary meeting by the club on November 22.

The statement said that the decision to fire him had been taken by the club president Jacky Lorenzetti after a delay for "a few days of reflection as well as the legal waiting periods in force".

Nakarawa had been at Racing 92 since 2016, appearing in 86 games for the Top 14 club and scoring 23 tries.

The club said this was not the first time he had "abandoned his post".

"This is also a deplorable example for Racing 92 players, when his status as best player in the 2018 European Cup should have encouraged him to set an example."

"At Racing, the only star is the team," said the statement. "Leone Nakarawa's egocentric attitude is unacceptable. It denotes a total lack of team spirit and blatant insubordination."

His departure leaves the club short of locks with just 35-year-old Irish international Donnacha Ryan, All Black Dominic Bird and young Frenchman Boris Palu, as well as French international Bernard Le Roux who usually plays in the back row.