Naholo could be ready for World Cup, says All Blacks coach

The 24-year-old, however, travelled to his home village in Fiji to undergo traditional healing methods and said earlier this week that he had begun light training already.

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“We know where he’s at. We’ve seen him since he’s been over in Fiji, and all we can do is get some X-rays, see how it’s going and follow the medical procedures,” Hansen told reporters in Auckland on Sunday.

“He’s likely to be ready to play if we wanted to take him round about the third game.”

The All Blacks are in Pool A of the tournament with Argentina, Namibia, Georgia and Tonga, who are their opponents in their third pool game on Oct. 3 in Cardiff.

Hansen’s selection issues for the make up of his back three would be clouded should he choose to risk selecting Naholo for the tournament.

“That’s another consideration we have to take into account — do we want to take that risk and take him or do we leave him at home,” he added.

“That’s a thought process we’ll go through once we’ve got all the cards on the table from the medical crew.”

Hansen’s biggest issues in narrowing his squad to 31 players by the end of the month appear to be in the back three with the emergence of Nehe Milner-Skudder and Naholo this season.

Milner-Skudder has proved to be a game-breaker for the All Blacks in his two tests against Australia, scoring two tries on debut last week in their 27-19 loss in Sydney, while he set up two more in their 41-13 victory at Eden Park on Saturday.

Hansen is expected to name five players to cover the back-three positions at the tournament.

Ben Smith and Julian Savea appear to be certainties with Charles Piutau, Milner-Skudder and Naholo competing with the experienced Israel Dagg and Cory Jane for the other vacancies.

The loose-forward mix also appears to be another area of debate, with Victor Vito’s performance at blindside flanker against the Wallabies another headache for the panel.

“He showed us he’s playing well enough and that he’s got to be considered,” Hansen said of Vito’s display at Eden Park.

“From his point of view he can be proud of his performance.

“There are going to be some good people miss out.

“But one of the positives of having the big group is if we lose anybody, and at most World Cups you need somebody, they’ve been in our environment and understand what we’re trying to do.”

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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