Na­holo Tells About ABs Omis­sion

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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.

Waisake Na­holo

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