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'I Remember Running Out With Rocky Elsom And Saying, 'What The Hell Are We Doing Here?'

'I Remember Running Out With Rocky Elsom And Saying, 'What The Hell Are We Doing Here?'
By PJ Browne Updated

The thought of getting up at 6am this Sunday brings real joy to Isa Nacewa. That's the time he will awake to watch Leinster play Munster. The Leinster legend is back home in New Zealand, now two years on from retiring from rugby for the second time.

"I can't wait. I can't wait," Nacewa, a Guinness ambassador, said via video conference call on Monday.

"My girls already have their Leinster jerseys ironed and ready. It's the game I love the most, the Leinster-Munster match, above all else."

On the wall of his home office, Nacewa has a picture of his favourite game between the two provinces. It's from the tail end of his first season in Dublin, one which saw Leinster win its first Heineken Cup. In that season's European semi-final, Leinster beat Munster 25-6.

"The '09 match, I've only got one picture on my wall and it's that Munster one. Why it was so memorable was just running out to Croke Park and the whole stadium was like a chessboard.

"I remember running out with Rocky Elsom and saying, 'What the hell are we doing here, this is outrageous.' There weren't too many blue bums on seats at that stage but as kick-off came, they must have all come from the pubs a little bit later.

"It was a phenomenal game and just such an occasion, something I always look back fondly on. It's the one picture I have in my office, that one."

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"It was a huge day and a huge occasion. Johnny Sexton's kick, just so many things that went well that day and since then, it has just continued to build the rivalry.

"To play at Croke Park in front of 82,000 people was pretty phenomenal. I've never actually watched the game again but it sticks in the memory."

Pictured celebrating rugby’s return this weekend is former Leinster player Isa Nacewa, who has teamed up with Guinness to reveal limited edition Guinness x BuJo Rugby at Home Kits, perfect for the ultimate rugby at home celebration. Photo credit ©INPHO/Isa Nacewa

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The 38-year-old also remembers the defeats.

"I remember being at the bottom of a ruck with Mick O'Driscoll, he had a knee in my... let's say my neck, it was probably my neck and it was just that era of forwards - Mick O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell, and the likes - they know how to control a match, which was pretty phenomenal," he said.

"That locking pairing at the time, I remember losing a match down there and they were able to run the clock down with about four minutes to go and we were desperately trying to get the ball back but there was no way in hell it was going to happen.

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"They just calmly navigated that last four minutes, had full control and they knew how to handle a match. You don't come across that too often but that old-school Munster era of forward pack was so experienced and so physical and they understood each other. That's really hard to play against when you're playing against the quality of those guys."

Nacewa believes this weekend's game is the perfect one to herald the return of rugby in Ireland.

"It's huge, it's the biggest week, no matter what. It's just a different buzz. It's a different buzz to European weeks, quarter-final, semi-final. No matter what anyone writes about it in the media or any commentary you hear around it, it's still the biggest game of the year and that's hands down the beauty of the rivalry, the history around it, the tribal warfare around it.

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"It's a week within the season that you just want to get right, so there is no better game, in my eyes, to come back to rugby. There's no second chance, no warm-up, it's been 175 days with no rugby and then whammy, straight into a Munster match at the Aviva.

"It's phenomenal and from a players' point of view, what better way to do it than face Munster first up?"

 

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Featured image credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

To mark the return of those moments where people can collectively hold their breaths in anticipation and to ignite that friendly rivalry between the two provinces, Guinness, in collaboration with BuJo has created two limited edition burger kits, one for Leinster and one for Munster, priced at €40 each. To purchase a limited-edition Guinness x BuJo Home Kit and savour the return of Irish rugby, people can visit https://shop.bujo.ie/bujo-home-burger-kit-guinness-rugby to order for delivery nationwide while stocks last.

 

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See Also: Seven Years After Leaving Munster, Danny Barnes Is Happier Than Ever

 

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