GLASGOW Warriors will use the compensation they receive from Racing 92 for the early release of Leone Nakarawa to strengthen their squad over the summer. In addition to confirming the departure of the Fijian forward a year before the end of his contract, the PRO12 champions announced several other departures yesterday, among them Kevin Bryce, who is moving from Scotstoun to Edinburgh Rugby and switching from hooker to tighthead prop.
A statement from Glasgow said only that Nakarawa was leaving for France, omitting to name his new club, but that was purely because Racing prefer to announce their new signings all at once at the end of the season. Initial contact between the 28-year-old and the Champions Cup finalists was made several months ago, and, while the deal was only finalised recently, there was always little doubt that he would leave the Warriors.
“These types of opportunities only come around once and I couldn’t turn it down,” Nakarawa said on www.glasgowwarriors.org. “I’ll miss all of the players, but I’ll still keep in touch with them as I get on with them all so well.
“This is a new challenge which I’m looking forward to, but that is next season and my focus just now is trying to retain the Guinness PRO12 trophy and end my time at the club on a high. Glasgow Warriors have helped me a lot with the coaches and backroom staff improving my game and making me stronger. I'd also like to thank the Glasgow supporters for making me feel so welcome.”
Nakarawa signed for Glasgow in 2013, then agreed a new deal at the end of 2014. He was a key player in the club’s PRO12 win last season, and was also one of the stars of the Rugby World Cup.
“Leone has attracted a lot of interest from other clubs due to the form he’s been in over the last year,” Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said. “During the Rugby World Cup a lot of clubs were interested in signing him and although we were looking to retain him, we have now agreed to let Leone leave a year early.
“Right from when there was interest in him I’ve been fully involved with Scottish Rugby in the discussions with Leone and his agent, and the deal which was subsequently agreed has allowed us to strengthen our squad for next season.
“Leone has been a fantastic player for the club and has been a pleasure to coach. He has worked hard and developed into one of the best second rows in the world during the past three years.”
The Warriors have already done much of their recruitment for next season, having begun the process of re-signing key players late last year and made new signings such as Italian international winger Leonardo Sarto and New Zealand prop forward Jarrod Firth. But between the compensation for Nakarawa and the money saved on his final-year salary, they should have enough cash to make two or three significant additions.
Having said that, Townsend’s squad will be smaller next season compared to this, as, without a World Cup to contend with, he will not need so many back-up players. While Bryce could develop into a valuable player at Edinburgh as understudy to WP Nel, the others whose departure was announced yesterday have simply been released. They are Scotland cap Tyrone Holmes, Fijian international Jerry Yanuyanutawa, Georgian international Shalva Mamukashvili, Will Bordill, Fergus Scott, Gregor Hunter, Jason Hill and Javan Sebastian.
The Warriors have previously confirmed the departures of: Duncan Weir and Glenn Bryce, Kevin’s brother, both of whom are also moving to Edinburgh; Wallabies international Taqele Naiyaravoro; and Scotland prop Mike Cusack. It was announced last week that Mike Blair has retired from playing and will remain on the staff as a coach, while earlier this week James Eddie announced his immediate retirement from playing because of persistent injury.
Bryce, who has signed a two-year contract with Edinburgh, went to the World Cup as a hooker, but decided after that tournament that his future lay in a switch to tighthead. “The more I thought about and discussed it, the more I thought it would be the right move,” he said.
“It's not massively different, just a matter of making a number of technical adjustments. My dad made the move from flanker to loosehead during his playing days, so it's not so unusual to make some sort of change.
“I like the culture of the club,” the 27-year-old continued, referring to Edinburgh. “I know a lot of the players either through Scotland or age grade, and I'm looking forward to being part of it and adding to the mix.”
Like Townsend, Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons is engaged in a major rebuilding project for next season. “It is terrific news for the club that we have been able to secure the services of Kevin,” he said yesterday.
“He is an abrasive, physical player who will fit in well at Edinburgh. We are all looking forward to his arrival at the club.”