New Zealand
Naholo named in All Blacks World Cup squad
ESPN Staff
August 30, 2015
Waisake Naholo has made the 31-man All Blacks squad after over coming a leg fracture © Getty Images

Despite suffering a broken leg last month, Waisake Naholo has been included in the All Blacks' 31-man squad charged with defending their title in England.

Naholo, 24, was expected to be sidelined for several months but after a course of natural herbal treatment in his native Fiji, he has been cleared by the All Blacks' medical staff. His seemingly miraculous recovery is the eye-catching story in the selection of a vastly experienced squad comprising 14 players who were part of the 2011 triumph.

Sigatoka-born Naholo joins Ben Smith, Julian Savea and rookie winger Nehe Milner-Skudder as the squad's four specialist outside backs. It leaves no room for veterans Israel Dagg and Cory Jane, who were both first-choice selections in 2011, and the in-form Charles Piutau.

The selectors have plumped for the outright pace and elusiveness of Naholo, who scored a Highlanders-record 13 tries on their way to this year's Super Rugby title. One influential Highlander to miss out is first five-eighth Lima Sopoaga, who has suffered from New Zealand's playmaking riches.

Veteran Dan Carter and the more versatile Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade have headed off Sopoaga, who shone in his only Test, the defeat of South Africa in Johannesburg in July. Speculation only two specialist half-backs would be named proved wrong, with Tawera Kerr-Barlow securing a third berth despite have spent most of the last year recuperating from a serious knee injury.

The make-up of the 14 backs is otherwise predictable, along with most of the 17-strong forward contingent. Just three specialist locks are included, leaving room to include both Victor Vito and Liam Messam among the loose forwards.

Prop Charlie Faumuina did enough in 40 minutes of NPC action for Auckland on Saturday - his first game for 14 weeks following minor neck surgery - to win selection ahead of Nepo Laulala. Codie Taylor is the third hooker and one of 16 players who haven't experienced a World Cup.

Captain Richie McCaw, hooker Keven Mealamu and Carter will all make their New Zealand-record fourth tournament appearance. It will be the third for another centurion, prop Tony Woodcock, along with midfield backs Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu.

"The selectors would like to congratulate all those players selected for the Rugby World Cup squad. It's a huge honour to represent your country on the international stage. It's the pinnacle for any New Zealand rugby player and we know the players and their families will be immensely proud of what they have achieved, as are we," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.

"Conversely, we know that there are some players who are disappointed. We are a tight-knit family and it's always difficult when players miss out. Those players did everything asked of them and the selections are more a reflection of the player depth that we have, and the mix of players required to effectively manage a 31-strong squad at what is a unique tournament with a unique set of replacement player rules.

"I'm sure it won't be the last time a lot of the players who have missed out play for the All Blacks. As we have seen in previous Rugby World Cups, anything can happen with injuries, and we want those players to be ready to step in if needed.

"To the fans I would like to say: our attitude going into this Rugby World Cup is not a case of expecting it, but one of making it happen. The Cup isn't ours. We are not defenders; like everyone else, we are contenders. We have to earn the right to win it through world-class performances.

"In doing so, we have to do something that no-one has ever done before. But that is a hugely exciting challenge and one I believe the team will rise to. With this in mind, we believe we have selected players with the right mix of experience, x-factor, determination and mental strength. This is an exciting and talented group of players who are looking to do something that hasn't been done before, and make New Zealanders proud."

New Zealand squad:

Forwards: Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Tony Woodcock, Wyatt Crockett, Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu, Codie Taylor, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Sam Cane, Victor Vito, Jerome Kaino, Liam Messam

Backs: Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Sonny Bill-Williams, Ben Smith, Julian Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo.


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