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'I couldn’t feel my left leg': Emoni Narawa gives injury update

By Ned Lester
Emoni Narawa in action for the All Blacks. Photo by Gaspafotos/MB Media/Getty Images

Rising All Blacks star Emoni Narawa had his debut season in the black jersey cut short in 2023, with a back injury forcing the 24-year-old to miss the Rugby World Cup.

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The Chiefs winger’s breakthrough year was on track to see him make his World Cup debut in France, until a slipped disc ultimately saw him on the outside looking in just a week into the campaign.

The injury initially came about in the bolter’s All Blacks debut against Argentina in Mendoza, but Narawa was tracking well in the months following and even set a personal best of the year in some of the All Blacks’ speed testing while in England. Once in France though, things took a turn.

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Former All Blacks head coach Ian Foster revealed: “It was the last thing he did in a skill block. He jarred it; it turns out it’s the other side of the disc.”

Recovery times for the injury can vary, and a few months into rehab, Narawa is being patient.

“I’m back in Hamilton doing three days a week now, doing rehab. But I can’t run at the moment, just on the treadmill,” Narawa told The New Zealand Herald.

“At the moment my focus is just getting my back right, [I’m just] taking it week by week.”

After a two-year stint with the Blues, Narawa credited the birth of his first child as a motivator in his rugby career, and a grounding experience in his personal life.

It was his family who were by his side in France that helped him deal wth the initial disappointment of missing the World Cup.

“My disc slipped down and is hitting a nerve. I couldn’t feel my left leg, it was numb. At the moment it’s up to my toes. Hopefully, it all goes away sometime soon.

“When it happened at training [in Lyon], I tried to stay positive the whole time but deep down I sort of saw it coming. I went in for a scan and turned out it was pretty bad. Not the best timing for it. [I was] gutted, but it is what it is.

“The family actually came over to France and we were able to do a bit of travelling over in Europe. It was good to be able to have them there, it was sort of bittersweet. It was really nice to have my two girls over there.

“As much as you think you’re all good with accepting that you’re out of the World Cup, it plays in your head a lot, but it was good to have a bit of time off and spend time with family.”

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Narawa signed with the Chiefs for the 2022 season where he played under his Bay of Plenty NPC coach Clayton McMillan, who promoted the youngster to the starting unit in 2023.

The Chiefs coach has found huge success at Super Rugby level after a poor period for the Waikato club. With an expansive style of play, McMillan has given his explosive back three of Shaun Stevenson, Etene Nanai-Seturo and Narawa the license to play with complete freedom, a luxury that has brought the best out of the trio.

The Chiefs will enter the 2024 season as one of, if not the favourites to lift the Super Rugby Pacific title, having retained more key talent and and off the field than their 2023 final opponents, the Crusaders.

Narawa is hopeful to make a full recovery in time to suit up for round one’s final rematch in Hamilton.

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“It’s always a privilege putting on that jersey and running out at FMG. You just can’t beat that feeling.”

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