36-year-old Nacewa spent ten years playing in Ireland after his stint in New Zealand, and believes that Ireland’s maiden victory over the All Blacks in 2016 has signaled a changing of the guard.
“They are beyond a chance, and I don’t think people down this part of the world really grasp just how different the mindset is for Ireland since that Chicago game,” Nacewa told Fairfax.
Nacewa believes the 2016 victory in Chicago changed Irish rugby.
“That fear is gone, and it’s been replaced with a burning desire to win again and I really think playing at home is a huge advantage – coupled with the fact they have class all over the park. I’m tipping an Irish win, 21-10.”
Nacewa was born in Auckland, but had his All Black eligibility robbed after a three-minute shift for the Fiji national side in 2003. With his four daughters all born in Ireland, the former playmaker admits there will be some division in the household on Saturday.
“Look I’m a Kiwi through and through, but it’s a weird one on game days like this,” he said.
“The girls will all be wearing their green jerseys and cheering for Johnny Sexton, he’s a good mate and their favourite player. So either way our household will be celebrating.”
Nacewa rates current Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt – Nacewa’s coach during his first stint with Leinster – as the world’s best and believes his influence has pushed Ireland to the next level.
“Joe is just so influential,” Nacewa said. “Everyone knows how smart the guy is and what a student of rugby he is, but I think his biggest influence on the group is how well he keeps the focus on them. That’s so important, especially in a massive build-up like this.”
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