FEATURE | Isiekwe loving being back in Black & Red
Nick Isiekwe is a born and bred Saracen so he is loving every minute of being back at StoneX Stadium this season and with the club which enabled him to become an England star.
Isiekwe’s enormous physical frame belies the fact he is still just 23-years-old. He has nonetheless achieved a lot in that time, winning Gallagher Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup titles.
The lock or back-row also has three England caps to his name having made a Test debut against Argentina in San Juan in the summer of 2017. After spending last season on loan at Northampton Saints having signed a new, long-term Saracens deal prior to his departure, it is clear Isiekwe sees north London as home.
Born in Hemel Hempstead, his passion for the men in black can’t be denied. “I’m massively excited to be back at Saracens this season and also very grateful to be part of a very special group of players. It’s an honour to be involved in this squad,” Isiekwe said.
“I’ve been at Saracens a long time so the club means a lot to me and all the players here are my mates. It’s great to be around them again.
“I got injured in April which was disappointing, but now I’m back fit and really enjoying my rugby. “The most important thing for me is to contribute to this team each week and help the club to winning performances.”
Isiekwe came through the Saracens academy and made his senior debut aged just 18 in the 2016-17 Premiership season. At that age he was young to be thrown into the blood and thunder of English rugby’s top division, but at six foot seven inches and nearly 19 stone, Isiekwe brings his own threat. His stature and obvious talent had already impressed Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall when only a year after his club bow, England head coach Eddie Jones came calling.
Prior to that, he plied his trade at Old Albanian before joining the Sarries academy. He also represented his country from Under-16 to Under-20 level.
Trialling many positions in that time, Isiekwe was tried at prop, centre, back-row and lock – his height dictating the latter would be the preferred outcome.
Isiekwe’s breakthrough season for the men in black came in 2017/18 after making his international debut on England’s tour of Argentina. His consistent performances led to a starting role in the Premiership final against Exeter Chiefs which ended victorious.
“It was a good experience for me to experience a different rugby environment at Northampton and link up and play with some players who I played with at age group level with England,” said Isiekwe. “It was interesting for me to get snippets of information from others and meet new players and coaches. I enjoyed my time there, but now I’m happy to be back at Saracens and I’ve been raring to go since this season started. It’s massive for me to be a Saracen.
“Since I’ve been very young it’s all I’ve ever known. The last year or so has been strange for everyone involved in the club, but what’s amazing about this club is how we’ve bounced back and all the players have come together again.
“It’s great to be a part of and I really think we are only going to get better the more we play together this season.
“We are trying to build and improve collectively as a squad not only on the pitch, but with our connection off the field. I’m so excited about getting into that because in the past, the better we’ve been getting on off the pitch, the better we’ve played on it.
“We’re finding that this season and I think that will put us in good stead.”
“The Bath result was good and I think that sort of performance had been building. It was nice to finally get everyone back in the same side for the first time this season,” Isiekwe said.
“To have a win like that was of course very nice, but we are trying to build on our game each week and it’s really important we do that. We know we need to get better and take it game by game.
“It was a good win, but if anything, it has made us more determined to get better and improve moving forwards. The Bath result will have no bearing on today’s game.
“It’s been amazing to have the fans back and it will be the same again all year. To have my family and friends at the Newcastle game was brilliant. I hadn’t experienced that for 18 months so it was a special feeling seeing them after the match and chatting to them pitchside.
“I love it when you can hear the fans going mad and roaring the team on.
“It’s been so nice to have them back and they make a massive difference to our performances.”