Lions tour: Waisake Naholo stakes claim for All Blacks jersey after starring against Lions

  • 14/06/2017

Waisake Naholo hopes he has landed a compelling early blow in his battle for the All Blacks right wing berth.

Naholo was a standout attacking figure for the hosts in their 23-22 win over the British and Irish Lions in Dunedin, scoring their opening try and proving a handful with ball in hand.

The 26-year-old is locked in a battle of contrasts for the Test No.14 jersey, with his raw pace and power running stacked up against Israel Dagg's more rounded game.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen may lean towards Dagg to start against Samoa in Auckland on Friday because of his lack of game time.

Dagg enjoyed some good touches in two Crusaders appearances after returning from knee surgery but was out of sorts against the Lions.

His trademark reliability under the high ball - a necessity against the Lions - wasn't apparent in the 12-3 loss.

Naholo, who started half of last year's 14 Tests, was asked if his sizzling display will have made a statement to Hansen.

"Hopefully I did," he said.

"I was just a bit hungry, I was excited, I was telling the guys I was excited to get the ball in my hands."

Fijian-born Naholo found the Lions clash a step up in speed and intensity from Super Rugby.

"They were really tough ... it was a Test kind of tempo and speed out there. We love that kind of play, we play like that as Highlanders."

Naholo missed four Super Rugby games this year with a hamstring injury and another through suspension.

The 26-year-old has crossed for eight tries in nine appearances.

The other back three positions at Eden Park should be filled by experienced pair fullback Ben Smith and left winger Julian Savea, although Hansen may consider starting the uncapped Jordie Barrett or another exciting youngster, Rieko Ioane.

NZN

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