Naholo Tells About ABs Omission
Wellington: Waisake Naholo is in no mood to “be a sook” about his recent omission from the All Blacks that likely spells the end of his international career.
The Highlanders winger was not selected in the 41-man squad for the Rugby Championship that started this month, with George Bridge and new All Blacks Braydon Ennor and Sevu Reece among the backs given the nod ahead of him. Instead of sulking, Naholo said he had been focused on working hard for Taranaki’s Mitre 10 Cup campaign that starts away to Counties Manukau on August 10.
The 28-year-old doesn’t want to dwell on getting dropped by the All Blacks after a season disrupted by a troubling knee injury.
“I don’t think I need to be a sook about it,” Naholo told Stuff after playing 47 minutes for Taranaki in a competitive pre-season outing against Auckland in Te Awamutu on Saturday.
“It’s always good playing for the ABs. It’s the best team out there and to be part of it is good. To miss out, you can be gutted but you can’t really be too gutted about it. You can’t control everything. You can just go back to work.” Naholo, who has played 26 tests (for 16 tries) since his All Blacks debut in 2015, was back in Taranaki’s colours for the first time since October 11, 2017, when he scored twice in a successful Ranfurly Shield defence against Manawatu.
The Fijian-born star spoke with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen about his omission and said their conversation “was pretty short”.
Naholo’s place in the All Blacks looked under threat as the Crusaders trio of Bridge, Ennor and Reece continued to excel for this year’s Super Rugby champions and his case wasn’t helped by being sidelined for most of the Highlanders’ season.
He played four games towards the end of their campaign, which ended with a quarter-final loss to the Crusaders, before running out for Dunedin club Harbour ahead of the All Blacks revealing their first squad of 2019 on July 3.
However, he couldn’t justify his selection in that time.
Not getting called up has almost certainly ruled out Naholo’s chances of playing at a second Rugby World Cup in Japan from September.
He played twice in the group stages before the All Blacks lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time in England in 2015.
Naholo wasn’t sure if the Japan tournament was a target he could consider and making the final 31man World Cup squad would only become possible if those above him in the pecking order suffered injuries.
Whatever happens, Naholo is leaving New Zealand Rugby later this year to join London Irish in England.
He still hasn’t been able to arrange a way of getting his beloved British bulldogs from New Zealand to England, but he said seeing them was something to look forward to when coming back.
The All Blacks will want Naholo fit and firing should any of their outside backs go down between now and their World Cup opener against South Africa in Yokohama on September 21.
His return for Taranaki is certainly a bonus for their season as they bid to bounce straight back to the Premiership after year’s relegation.
Naholo was on Taranaki’s right wing as they faced reigning champions Auckland at Te Awamutu’s Albert Park.
It was a healthy workout for both teams and Naholo’s 34th-minute try was one of the highlights after he combined well with Lachlan Boshier.
But he left the field with a tight calf and Auckland scored five unanswered tries after half-time to win 52-21.