Naholo to use RWC disappointment as motivation

Date published: February 16 2016

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Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo is determined to make up for a topsy turvy 2015 season by reclaiming the All Blacks' number 14 jersey.

The 24-year-old, who was rejected by the Blues, found a new home at the Highlanders and lit up Super Rugby by scoring 13 tries in 18 matches and, in doing so, helped the Dunedin-based franchise win the tournament for the first time in their history.

His impressive form earned him a Test call-up but a fractured leg – sustained in his debut for New Zealand against Argentina – seemed to have ruined his dream of playing at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

"When I first did it the doctor told me it would be a while until I got it right and that crushed everything for me," Naholo told Fairfax Media. 

"I wanted to really dominate that wing position for the All Blacks."

He returned to his native Fiji where treatment using traditional medicine saw him back on his feet in time to make the All Black squad for the World Cup.

And although he scored a try in his comeback match against Georgia, it was clear he was not fully fit. Naholo played one more match at the World Cup – the final pool game against Tonga – and had to look on as Nehe Milner-Skudder became the first-choice right wing in New Zealand's run to World Cup success.

"I still had the injury when I went to the World Cup but I really wanted to play," added Naholo.

"Playing when you are not 100 per cent is difficult but I've got to be grateful for the opportunity to be a part of that team. I just wish I could have played more and hadn't broken my leg because things would have been different."

And Naholo is now highly motivated to replicate his 2015 form for the Highlanders in 2016's Super Rugby tournament to reclaim the coveted All Black right wing berth.

"It has given me that hunger to get out there and perform even better this year – to try and get that black jersey back," he revealed.

Naholo said his leg injury is a thing of the past and is looking forward to playing with first-choice All Blacks like Aaron Smith again.

"The leg is all good now," he said.

"I don't strap it or anything. It's 100 per cent – all good to go.

"I'm lucky to have players like that in our team. You work with them at training so come game-time it just clicks. I want to go as well as I did last year and improve on some areas. The All Blacks and Highlanders coaches are always there telling me to work hard.

"There are new teams and it's a new competition and we've still got to fight for it just like everyone else. It's not our title to defend or anything like that."

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