LEONE Nakarawa will leave Glasgow for Ulster in the summer, bringing to an end a deeply frustrating second spell with the Warriors. The 32-year-old Fijian forward, who returned to Scotstoun at the start of 2020 after three years in France with Racing 92, has signed a one-year contract with the Belfast-based team.

“It’s an exciting time for Leone to be making the move to Ulster for the upcoming season as we look to continue to build on our ambitions as a squad,” said Ulster head coach Dan McFarland, who was assistant coach to Gregor Townsend at Glasgow for part of Nakarawa’s first spell with the team. “Given his broad skill set and experience, as well as some impressive accolades to his name, I’m confident that he’ll be a valuable addition to the team.”

At his best, Nakarawa is a world class lock whose offloading ability can help transform a team from contenders into trophy winners, as he showed when playing a major role in the Warriors’ victorious PRO12 campaign in season 2014-15. Yet his three years in Paris ended acrimoniously, with Racing ripping up his contract for various breaches of discipline. Nothing has gone so publicly wrong at Glasgow, but he has only played a handful of games since rejoining, leaving head coach Danny Wilson extremely frustrated by how long it has taken him to get back to full fitness following a knee injury.

In other words, McFarland is taking a calculated risk, especially given the kind of money a man of Nakarawa’s talent can command. And although the forward’s departure from Scotstoun could be viewed as a further loss of real quality in a playing group which has also been deprived of several other stars in recent seasons, the money saved on his salary could - if made available to Wilson and used judiciously by the coach - underwrite some serious squad rebuilding.

After rejoining Glasgow under then head coach Dave Rennie in January 2020, Nakarawa scored on his second debut, against Sale Sharks. But he was injured the following month, and, with lockdown coming in March, he was allowed to return to Fiji to recuperate with his family.

Wilson took over from Rennie in the summer, and for a time was unable to say when Nakarawa would return to Scotland, a family bereavement having postponed the player’s original return date. Then, once he did eventually get back to Scotstoun, the former European player of the year had some difficulties with his injured knee which kept him out of action until he came off the bench in the home 1872 Cup game against Edinburgh earlier this month.

In the latter stages of Nakarawa’s recuperation, Wilson was asked if he was convinced that the player was working hard enough in an effort to return to action. “Now he is,” was the telling reply.

More recently, in the days leading up to that game against Edinburgh, Wilson was asked if he wanted to keep Nakarawa beyond the end of the current PRO14 campaign. “To be brutally honest, right now we just want to see him back on the field and see how he returns from the injuries,” he replied. “A fit Leone, the Leone we have all seen, 100 per cent I would want to keep him.”

Ulster’s decision to sign the Fijian has denied Wilson that option of waiting until he is match-fit before offering him a new contract. But it has also relieved the coach of a problem that, to be blunt, has for some time now seemed more bother than it is worth.