Former Wanganui rep player Waisake Naholo is the surprise face in the All Blacks 31-man squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Naholo looked like a long shot to make the squad after suffering a cracked tibia on his All Blacks debut against Argentina, but a quick recovery aided by traditional Fijian medicine has helped him earn a spot on the plane to England.
The Highlanders winger was named yesterday in New Zealand’s squad to defend the Rugby World Cup as the selectors trusted a Fijian folk healer to repair Naholo’s broken leg in time for the tournament’s pool rounds.
Naholo, who entered provincial rugby at just 18 and played the 2009 Heartland Championship with Wanganui before moving on to Taranaki, suffered a cracked tibia in his debut test against Argentina on July 16 and was thought to be sidelined for three months, ruling him out of action until the Cup’s late play-off rounds.
His expected unavailability further complicated the selection of the outside backs, which was one of the most contentious elements of the squad announced at Parliament.
But Naholo travelled to his native Fiji to receive treatment from a traditional healer, and the All Blacks say medical tests show he has made a recovery.
Naholo has been joined in the squad by fellow electric winger Nehe Milner-Skudder, whose excellent performances in the Rugby Championship demanded inclusion.
However, the news wasn’t as fortunate for Charles Piutau, Israel Dagg and Cory Jane, all of whom missed out on selection in the high-quality fight for spots in the backline. Another player who can be considered unlucky to not have been given a ticket is Lima Sopoaga, who was beaten out by the versatility of Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade, with the duo potentially set to cover fullback as well as provide back-up to Dan Carter.
Meanwhile, Tawera Kerr-Barlow will travel as the third halfback behind Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara.
In the forwards, Charlie Faumuina edged out Nepo Laulala to travel along with four other props, Codie Taylor snagged the third hooking role and both Liam Messam and Victor Vito were named in the squad as the selectors decided to take just three specialist locks.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen after the announcement described the 24-year-old Naholo as a “try-scoring machine” and someone they had to have.
By Staff reporter, NZME – Wanganui Chronicle