Les Kiss, the London Irish head coach, insists All Black Waisake Naholo has a key mentoring role to play at the club and believes his try-scoring debut against Leicester proves the powerful wing has not moved to the Gallagher Premiership just to boost his pension pot.
World Cup-winning wing Naholo, 28, headed to Irish on a lucrative deal after being ignored by the All Blacks for their Cup campaign in Japan and has already impressed Kiss with his help and advice for the club’s outstanding young talent including win Ben Loader and utility back Tom Parton who also scored tries in yesterday’s 36-11 bonus-point win over bottom of the table Leicester at the Madejski stadium.
Eddie Jones, the England head coach, was in the crowd to see Loader score one try and play a key role in one of the tries of the season for lock Ruan Botha. Naholo, who scored 16 tries in 26 Tests, was the star summer signing for Irish who have also brought in Ireland’s Sean O’Brien and Paddy Jackson and Wallaby Sekope Kepu.
After watching his Irish side deliver their best performance of the season to move well clear of the relegation zone, Kiss highlighted the positive impact Naholo is having on an Irish side desperate to hold onto their top flight status having been promoted from the Championship.
Kiss, whose next assignment is the Scarlets in the European Challenge Cup on Saturday, told RugbyPass: “Waisake has been very good for the young guys, but I don’t want them to be in awe of him.
“The first couple of training sessions after Waisake arrived he was carrying water out talking to the youngsters and has a natural way of putting himself into conversations. Their ears prick up when he is talking but I don’t want those young guys to step back and wait to see what Waisake can do, I want them to show him what they can do.
“What impressed me was that Waisake knew the boys names when he arrived and has a keen interest in how he can help them. If I was those young guys I would be lapping it up and he is generous with his views and time.”
Kiss is playing down the impact Loader has made this season and the possible interest from Eddie Jones, insisting the young wing can get even better. He added: “We all know that you don’t try and guess what Eddie (Jones) is thinking and I wouldn’t like to put any of that kind of pressure on Ben and his job is to learn how to become a complete professional, including how you look after your body.
“I am playing it down because he needs to focus on each game. He is a great talent and has a lot more growing and maturing to do but it is all upsides.
“Ben has grown and grown from the Championship last season, his speed was always there and he just needed to bulk up in a smart way and become physical. Tom Parton will play more rugby going forward after his ACL injury (suffered last October) and showed what he had when I first came here which is that scintillating pace. It is nice to have those weapons but you need the other parts of your game to be humming and our set piece didn’t quite do that and we know there is more to come.”
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now