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Ex-All Blacks star Waisake Naholo set to make Canterbury debut

By Alex McLeod
Photo: Andrew Cornaga /

Former All Blacks star Waisake Naholo is set to make his return to first-class rugby in New Zealand after being named on the bench for Canterbury this weekend.


Naholo, who played 26 tests for the All Blacks between 2015 and 2018, has returned to New Zealand after an injury-riddled spell with London Irish, where he made just four Premiership appearances across two seasons.

After signing with Canterbury for the 2021 NPC season, Naholo is primed to make his first appearance in the red-and-black jersey against Manawatu in Christchurch on Saturday.

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The 30-year-old, who was part of the 2015 World Cup-winning All Blacks team, has been named in the No 23 jersey by co-coaches Mark Brown and Reuben Thorne.

This weekend’s match will be the beginning of Naholo’s quest to return to Super Rugby, a goal of which he has made clear he wants to achieve next year.

Naholo isn’t the only noticeable presence in Canterbury’s match day squad, as the squad has also been bolstered by the inclusion of one-test All Blacks midfielder Braydon Ennor.

Following a lengthy injury lay-off due to a ruptured ACL, Ennor was included in the All Blacks squads for this year’s Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship, almost two years after his test debut against Argentina in Buenos Aires.


However, the 24-year-old hasn’t featured for the All Blacks this season as he was ruled out of New Zealand’s July tests against Tonga and Fiji after suffering appendicitis.

Upon his return from a five-week sideline spell, Ennor was released by the All Blacks to play for Canterbury in the NPC, but didn’t feature in last weekend’s season-opening loss to Auckland at Eden Park.

That won’t be the case this week, though, as Ennor has been named to start at centre in what will be his first match since the Crusaders’ 52-26 victory over the Melbourne Rebels in the final round of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman two months ago.

“We always welcome our All Blacks back, it’s great to have them in the environment,” Brown said, as per Stuff.


“Braydon has come in and really added a good dimension, keeping everyone accountable. Obviously, he is a good footy player in his own right. He’ll really help that backline unit.”

Elsewhere throughout the side, reserve lock Daniel Johnson and reserve loose forward Dominic Gardiner look set to win their NPC debuts after being named alongside Naholo on the bench.

Former Canterbury playmaker Brett Cameron, meanwhile, will return to Orangetheory Stadium with the aim of upsetting his ex-side after steering Manawatu to an upset win over Counties Manukau in the competition’s season-opener last week.

The Kamaishi Seawaves-bound first-five has again been named to start at No 10 for the Turbos, who will be looking to clinch back-to-back victories for the first time since September 2019.

Kick-off is scheduled for 2:05pm on Saturday NZT.

Canterbury: 1. Finlay Brewis, 2. Shilo Klein, 3. Oliver Jager, 4. Luke Romano, 5. Sam Darry, 6. Liam Allen, 7. Corey Kellow, 8. Henry Stowers, 9. Mitchell Drummond (c), 10. Fergus Burke, 11. Ngatungane Punivai, 12. Rameka Poihipi, 13. Braydon Ennor, 14. Chay Fihaki, 15. Josh McKay. Reserves: 16. Sam Stewart, 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18. Fletcher Newell, 19. Daniel Johnson, 20. Dominic Gardiner, 21. Luke Donaldson, 22. Isaiah Punivai, 23. Waisake Naholo.

Manawatu: 1. Harry Allen, 2. Ray Niuia, 3. Tietie Tuimauga, 4. Micaiah Torrance-Read, 5. Liam Mitchell, 6. TK Howden, 7. Shamus Hurley-Langton, 8. Braydon Iose, 9. Logan Henry, 10. Brett Cameron, 11. Taniela Filimone, 12. Jason Emery, 13. Josiah Maraku, 14. Tima Fainga’anuku, 15. Drew Wild. Reserves: 16. Siua Maile, 17. Jarred Adams, 18. Flyn Yates, 19. Ofa Tauatevalu, 20. Johnny Galloway, 21. Griffin Culver, 22. Stewart Cruden, 23. Ed Fidow


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