Preview: New Zealand v Georgia

Date published: October 1 2015

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The miracle recovery should be complete on Friday when Waisake Naholo joins the All Black World Cup campaign against Georgia in Cardiff.

The Highlanders winger, who fractured his leg on his Test debut against Argentina, beat the odds to make New Zealand's World Cup squad, and will now get a second cap, three months on from his first.

Initially ruled out of the tournament, a return to his native Fiji allowed Naholo to recover in time, relying on traditional medicine from his uncle.

"My uncle does a little bit of massages there," Naholo explained. 

"He placed some of the leaves we use back in Fiji. Then I came back to New Zealand and the doctors we use with the All Blacks carried it on there."

Coming in for Nehe Milner-Skudder, Naholo has the chance to nail down a first team spot for the All Blacks, in a game which will likely tell us little about the team going forward.

In fact eight years on from a straightforward group stage followed by their only quarter-final defeat in World Cups, New Zealand find themselves in a similar position.

Argentina pushed them very hard in their opener at Wembley, but they will go the best part of a month without facing top quality opposition before a quarter-final in Cardiff, likely against France or Ireland.

The biggest test for Steve Hansen will be keeping his players on their toes, and his pack should at least be put through their paces by Georgia.

The Lelos saw their faint hopes of a quarter-final spot disappear with their second-half collapse against Argentina, and the target now will be getting the job done against Namibia to finish third in the group and secure a place at the 2019 World Cup.

A credible performance against New Zealand might have increased the pressure on the Six Nations to contemplate their inclusion, but after naming a second string team, that is out of the question.

Still, having beaten Tonga, and potentially finishing third in their pool, Milton Haig's side should already have done enough to earn more opportunities to take on top quality opposition.

Players to watch: 

For New Zealand: Waisake Naholo's return has understandably grabbed the headlines after his recovery from a fractured leg, but just as intriguing will be seeing Sonny Bill Williams and Conrad Smith combine in midfield. Williams was arguably fortunate to make the squad after an underwhelming, injury-hit Super Rugby season. He has been on fire in the World Cup though, and will look to put more pressure on Ma'a Nonu as he recovers from a shoulder problem.

For Georgia: With Davit Zirakashvili rested and Davit Kubriashvili injured, Toulon tighthead Levan Chilachava gets a start for Georgia. Just 24, he has established himself as an important squad player with the European champions, and could be first choice this season after the retirement of Carl Hayman and departure of Martin Castrogiovanni. He has big boots to fill to replace Zirakashvili, but expect him to give Wyatt Crockett a real challenge.

Head-to-head: The two skippers will face off in the back row, but it's hard to imagine two more different flankers. Both inspirational in their own way, Richie McCaw extends his record as the most capped player of all time, reclaiming the captaincy that he had relinquished for the clash with Namibia. Up against him will be Mamuka Gorgodze, shifting from number eight to the flank. The battle pits two of the most prolific forwards in the history of Test rugby against each other. McCaw has 27 tries in his 144 caps, two more than Gorgodze has achieved in just 63 Georgian appearances. McCaw seems more likely to add to that tally in this one, but Gorgodze won't go unnoticed. 

Team news: Steve Hansen has gone for a near full-strength side, with only the props arguably not first choice of the players available. Waisake Naholo makes his first appearance of the tournament after recovering from his fractured leg, while Sonny Bill Williams fills in for the injured Ma'a Nonu at inside centre. Wyatt Crockett and Charlie Faumuina get the nod as the starting props, but on the bench injuries mean that both Tawera Kerr-Barlow and TJ Perenara are in the matchday squad, with no fly-half or full-back cover.

Georgia, meanwhile, have chosen this game to rotate their squad, with almost a second string lineup. Mamuka Gorgodze shifts to the flank as the only survivor from the pack that faced with Argentina last week. Of the newcomers, props Karlen Asieshvili and Levan Chilachava are both regulars in the Top 14, while hooker Shalva Mamukashvili plays for Sale. Elsewhere it's a very inexperienced squad when it comes to top flight club games.

Previous results:

This is the first meeting between the two sides.

Prediction: A virtually first choice All Black team will have no trouble seeing off Georgia, especially given the wholesale changes made by Milton Haig. The scrum battle should worth a watch, but other than that, expect this to be very one-sided. New Zealand by 40!

The teams:

New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw(c) 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett. 
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 TJ Perenara, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.

Georgia: 15 Beka Tsiklauri, 14 Giorgi Aptsiauri, 13 David Kacharava, 12 Tamaz Mchedlidze, 11 Alexandr Todua, 10 Lasha Malaguradze, 9 Giorgi Begadze, 8 Lasha Lomidze, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze (c), 6 Shalva Sutiashvili, 5 Giorgi Chkhaidze, 4 Levan Datunashvili, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Karlen Asieshvili
Replacements: 16 Simon Maisuradze, 17 Mikheil Nariashvili, 18 Anton Peikrishvili, 19 Konstantin Mikautadze, 20 Viktor Kolelishvili, 21 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 22 Merab Sharikadze, 23 Murazi Giorgadze

Date: Friday, October 2
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Kick-off: 20:00 local
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

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