Naholo up to speed and back in sevens squad

Last updated 05:00 08/06/2013
Waisake Naholo
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RUSSIA BOUND: Waisake Naholo has been starved of sevens play.

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Speedster Waisake Naholo can say "do svidaniya" to Super Rugby and "zdvahstooy" to the Rugby World Cup Sevens after being picked in the New Zealand squad yesterday.

Naholo, 22, joins fellow Taranaki rep Kurt Baker in Gordon Tietjens' 12-man squad for the world cup in Russia later this month after he was granted leave by Blues coach John Kirwan to be part of a tournament New Zealand has not won since 2001.

While switching back to sevens mode after a year away had not been as easy, Naholo said Tietjens' latest training camp, which was used to cut the squad from 20 to 12 players, had brought him up to speed with the latest changes to the game.

"We played a series of games the other day and I was pretty tired by about the third one but, apart from that, it's been good."

His biggest concernis the weather. "I just hope it isn't too cold," he said.

Given Tietjens' relative drought of world cup titles since he became New Zealand's sevens guru, it's a fair bet Naholo might find the intensive training enough to keep him warm once the squad lands in Moscow.

Despite his extended absence, Naholo said it was just like returning to a "family" being back with so many familiar faces.

"I think Titch has done a really good job selecting the squad and there are a lot of form players in there such as Tim Mikkelson and Gillies Kaka."

While Naholo and Baker had good news this week, there was no place in the squad for fellow Taranaki rep Warwick Lahmert.

"It's been an intense few days and competition for places has been strong and I know all players are really keen on taking part in a world cup," Tietjens said. "There is something very special about the cup which only comes around once every four years and playing in a country we have yet to visit as a team is also pretty exciting."

Three team members, captain D J Forbes, Tomasi Cama and Lote Raikabula, took part in the last world cup in Dubai in 2009.

"On the sevens world series circuit this year we have tested a group of young, exciting players so it's really pleasing to include a number of them in the team."

The New Zealand women's squad was also named yesterday, with Taranaki captain Lauren Burgess also missing out.

NEW ZEALAND MEN: Kurt Baker, Tomasi Cama, Scott Curry, Sam Dickson, DJ Forbes, Bryce Heem, Gillies Kaka, Tim Mikkelson, Waisake Naholo, Lote Raikabula, David Raikuna Sherwin Stowers

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NEW ZEALAND WOMAN: Kelly Brazier, Sarah Goss, Vaine Greig, Honey Hireme, Linda Itunu, Huriana Manuel, Kayla McAlister, Tyla Nathan-Wong, Alexis Tapsell, Selica Winiata, Renee Wickliffe, Portia Woodman.

- Taranaki Daily News

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