Waisake Naholo has been called up to New Zealand's squad for the forthcoming 2015 Rugby World Cup. The decision comes despite the Highlanders wing having suffered a broken leg against Argentina earlier this summer.
Making his debut for the All Blacks in their Rugby Championship opener in Christchurch last month, Fijian-born Naholo lasted 57 minutes in the 39-18 victory before being substituted due to a cracked fibula. Such a serious injury was initially believed to have ruled the 24-year-old out of contention for the trip to the northern hemisphere, as Steve Hansen's side seek to provide a successful defence of the title they won for the second time on home soil back in 2011.
His recovery appears to have been particularly swift, however, with initial fears over a three-month layoff proving unfounded. Fellow wing Nehe Milner-Skudder is also in having made quite an impression with his recent performances against Australia.
While Naholo makes the cut against the odds, there is no place in the 31-man travelling party for either Israel Dagg or Cory Jane. The back-three duo have amassed 102 test caps between them during their respective international careers and were part of the side that triumphed four years ago, but both have been deemed surplus to requirements this time around. Blues full-back Charles Piutau also misses out, as does lock Jeremy Thrush.
Lima Sopoaga is another notable omission, with Hansen opting to select Colin Slade and Beauden Barrett alongside record points scorer Dan Carter at fly-half. Richie McCaw captains the squad ahead of his likely retirement later this year and Sonny Bill-Williams is among the other headline names.
After his final selection was revealed, Hansen said: "The players & their families will be immensely proud of what they have achieved, as are we. We know that there are some players who are disappointed. We are a tight-knit family and it's always difficult when players miss out. Those players did everything asked of them and the selections are more a reflection of the player depth that we have.
"To the fans I would like to say: our attitude going into this World Cup is not a case of expecting it, but one of making it happen. The Cup isn't ours. We have to earn the right to win it through world-class performances. We believe we have selected players with the right mix of experience, x-factor, determination and mental strength."
New Zealand relinquished their Rugby Championship crown in July following a first defeat to rivals Australia since 2011, but exacted swift revenge by successfully retaining the Bledisloe Cup with a crushing 41-13 victory in Auckland. Placed in Pool C, the All Blacks begin their World Cup campaign against Argentina at Wembley on 20 September and are expected to confidently brush aside challenges from Namibia, Georgia and Tonga on their way to booking a likely quarter-final date with Ireland or France.
New Zealand's 31-man World Cup squad
Forwards: Kieran Read, Victor Vito, Liam Messam, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, Richie McCaw, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Tony Woodcock, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks
Backs: Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea, Malakai Fekitoa, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Ma'a Nonu, Colin Slade, Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow