Oct 12, 2017
In Focus: A closer look at Saracens starlet Nick Isiekwe
Not many 19-year-olds spent their summer preparing for their second Premiership season on the back of an England tour. In step Nick Isiekwe.
The young lock made two Premiership appearances for Saracens last season, and has already surpassed that this time around, appearing in all six games so far, and today it was announced that the Sarries academy starlet has put pen to paper on a new deal with the club.
At 6ft 7in, the incredibly athletic Isiekwe is a force in set pieces and a fearsome ball carrier. He is getting better every time he steps on the field and is turning heads across the board.
Director of Rugby Mark McCall said: “He’s as good an athlete as you can find anywhere. I think he breaks every test in the gym.
“In these exposures to senior team rugby he has shown he is more than capable of playing.”
Though even with his bright start, it has not always been an easy road to the top for Isiekwe, who only finished school last year.
He said: “The change of environment from school to a professional environment has been a big change. It’s quite challenging at times.
“It’s just the physical demands it puts on your body. That’s quite difficult. There are a lot of big guys…
“I think it’s just understanding that it takes time and you have to put a lot of work into it. It’s that realisation that physically you have to be ready. You have to do a lot of the things around the game, like eat a lot, sleep a lot, obviously training a lot.”
Though even in his fledgling career, his story makes for impressive reading.
He first picked up the game as a kid, noting how is mother sent him to the club his cousin was playing at to keep him busy on a Sunday.
After falling in love with the sport at Old Verulamians, he moved to Old Albanians where he was spotted by coaches and invited in to the Saracens Academy system.
From there he has gone from strength to strength, earning senior team time last year and growing in to one of the most promising locks in the country. He even earned a call up to Eddie Jones’ England squad to tour Argentina in June.
He earned two caps for the national side, saying: “It was a really good experience, just to understand what it means to play at that level as an international. It gave me an insight into how prepared mentally and physically you have to be.”
Though away from the England setup, Isiekwe is hardly short of mentors. Ahead of him on the Saracens squad at second row he has two British and Irish Lions in Maro Itoje and George Kruis, as well as experienced professionals Will Skelton and Dominic Day.
The group has proved influential in his development and have taken him under their wing.
Isiekwe said: “It’s unbelievable. I think the best thing is that they are all such nice guys. I can go to them with anything and ask them questions; and they will all in their own respect have their different answers. It’s good to see how different operators work and how they think about things.
“I’m really happy to have those guys around.”
With Kruis and Skelton being slow to start through injuries, Isiekwe has pushed for time on the field, and has shown signs of a promising future.
He played well off the bench against Northampton and Bath, and earned his first start last week against Newcastle and has been a fixture in the Saracens starting XV since the club’s stateside trip, saying: “Just to be exposed to Premiership rugby and to be involved is a great learning curve. You’re up against some of the best guys in England so you really get to test yourself.”
With a significant taste of top level rugby under his belt, you could forgive a 19-year-old for getting carried away. Though Isiekwe is focused on keeping his feet on the ground.
He said: “I think it’s just about enjoying it. I enjoy the people, I enjoy the company, I enjoy match days and just playing. I enjoy training.
“I just want to fulfil my potential and be the best player I can be.”
He has a long way to go, but Isiekwe is certainly heading in the right direction.