Naholo's return gives Kiwis leg up

Waisake Naholo is raring to play again after Fijian traditional medicine allowed him to recover quickly from a stress fracture in the leg. He is the top try scorer in Super rugby this year.
Waisake Naholo is raring to play again after Fijian traditional medicine allowed him to recover quickly from a stress fracture in the leg. He is the top try scorer in Super rugby this year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CARDIFF • Ten weeks after suffering a broken leg in his debut Test, traditional Fijian medicine has brought All Blacks try ace Waisake Naholo back and ready to confront Georgia in the World Cup today.

One day after the All Blacks beat Argentina in Christchurch in July, grim-faced coach Steve Hansen revealed Naholo had a fracture that had ended his World Cup chances.

But Hansen was all smiles when naming his "best 23" to play Georgia. Naholo was named alongside Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Kieran Read and a host of other senior All Blacks who did not start in a 58-14 romp over Namibia.

Georgia should pose no more difficult a challenge but Hansen has decided that it is time his defending champions started to bed-in their top side.

Some selections raised eyebrows. Regular props Tony Woodcock and Owen Franks are benched and replaced by Wyatt Crockett and Charlie Faumuina.

Sonny Bill Williams starts at inside-centre with Ma'a Nonu suffering a previously unannounced shoulder injury.

But the big talking point was the inclusion of Naholo, selected for the World Cup when not fully fit, but who Hansen always said would be his attacking weapon.

"It's exciting for us to have him back," he said of this year's top try-scorer in Super Rugby. "There's been a lot of talk about a miracle cure but he's come back when we expected him to come back."

After Naholo was told by New Zealand doctors the stress fracture would not heal in time for the World Cup, he went to Fiji for a traditional treatment with an application made from a special leaf applied to the leg.

At a media conference where the team to play Georgia was named, Hansen shut down questioning about a "miracle cure" for Naholo.

"He's not a witch doctor, not a doctor, all he knows is his leg is right," he said. "We know his leg is right because he's had it X-rayed."

Scrum-half Aaron Smith, a teammate of Naholo at Otago Highlanders, said the big winger was raring to get back on the field.

"He's been getting killed in the gym, seeing the big guy sweat a bit. But you could see the relief when he got named and how excited he is," Smith said.

"I'm just an excited fan of watching the guy run. Guys like that, when they get the ball, you get excited and try to catch up if you can.

"I gee him up a bit, give a bit of banter like, 'You can't run over him or around him' and you can see him try and prove me wrong."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 02, 2015, with the headline 'Naholo's return gives Kiwis leg up'. Print Edition | Subscribe