Waisake Naholo
Waisake Naholo wins his second test cap for the All Blacks just 10 weeks after suffering a severe leg injury against Argentina AFP

Formidable defending champions New Zealand continue their Pool C campaign with what is sure to be a highly physical encounter against Georgia at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

Where to watch

New Zealand vs Georgia kicks off at 8pm BST on Friday 2 October. Live coverage is available on ITV HD and BBC Radio Five Live.


With their toughest early test successfully negotiated in a hard-fought 26-16 victory over Rugby Championship rivals Argentina at Wembley, the All Blacks are currently coasting towards a quarter-final berth courtesy of a thumping win over spirited tournament minnows Namibia last week.

The two-time winners have never been beaten in a pool game at a World Cup and that hugely impressive record should not be in trouble here. However, rapidly improving Georgia are certainly no pushovers and their opening win over Tonga was characterised by old-fashioned blood and thunder rugby, spearheaded by spirited captain and Toulon back-rower Mamuka Gorgodze.

In terms of team news, Steve Hansen once again has an embarrassment of riches to choose from as the likes of experienced duo Richie McCaw and Dan Carter return. Although unable to call upon 99-cap centre Ma'a Nonu due to a shoulder problem, Sonny Bill-Williams is a more than adequate replacement as he starts his second consecutive game. Wyatt Crockett and Charlie Faumuina start ahead of Tony Woodcock and Owen Franks in the front row, but the headline selection involves a second international start for Waisake Naholo.

The rapid Highlanders wing was arguably the top performer in Super Rugby this year, but his chances of making the 31-man squad for this tournament looked all but over after he cracked his fibula just 57 minutes into his All Black debut against Argentina in July. He appears to have made a rapid recovery, however, something he puts down to both the efforts of the New Zealand doctors as well as the herbal remedies of his uncle back in Fiji. Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade and Liam Messam are all unavailable, with Tawera Kerr-Barlow and TJ Perenara named among the replacements.

Perhaps rather sensibly, Georgia's Kiwi head coach Milton Haig has chosen to rest several experienced players for this one as he targets a victory over Jacques Burger and Namibia on 7 October. He makes 10 changes in all, with only Gorgodze remaining in the pack from the team that lost to Argentina at Kingsholm, switching to openside flanker. Lasha Lomidze comes in at number eight and Beka Tsiklauri features at full-back in the absence of Merab Kvirikashvili.

Georgia head coach Milton Haig has rested several experienced players with one eye on their next match against Namibia Getty


New Zealand: 15. B Smith, 14. Naholo, 13. C Smith, 12. Williams, 11. Savea, 10. Carter, 9. A Smith, 8. Read, 7. McCaw (c), 6. Kaino, 5. Whitelock, 4. Retallick, 3. Faumuina, 2. Coles, 1. Crockett

Replacements: 16. Mealamu, 17. Woodcock, 18. O Franks, 19. Vito, 20. Cane, 21. Kerr-Barlow, 22. Perenara, 23. Fekitoa

Georgia: 15. Tsiklauri, 14. Aptsiauri, 13. Kacharava, 12. Mchedlidze, 11. Todua, 10. Malaguradze, 9. Begadze, 8. Lomidze, 7. Gorgodze (c), 6. Sutiashvili, 5. Chkhaidze, 4. Datunashvili, 3. Chilachava, 2. Mamukashvili, 1. Asieshvili

Replacements: 16. Maisuradze, 17. Nariashvili 18. Peikrishvili, 19. Mikautadze, 20. Kolelishvili, 21. Lobzhanidze, 22. Sharikadze, 23. Giorgadze

What the coaches say

Steve Hansen: "We always look at our group as a twenty-three so when we pick our team we pick twenty-three to do the job, so first and foremost, that's what we're looking to do, what twenty-three do we need. Our bench is so important to us. And then what we wanted to look at with the props is, can we swap them round and get the same performances and the only way we can find that out is by doing it so this is the game to do that. Once we've had this game, we can sit back and reflect and see 'how that worked'. We now have options, just to change it up a bit.

"There's been a lot of talk about a miracle cure [for Naholo] and all that, but it's a bit strong to say he broke the leg, as he cracked a fibula – but still the time line has been great. Waisake's not a witch doctor, not a doctor, all he knows is his leg is right and we know too, because of the X-rays. It's healed and we decided to pick him. As long as his leg was right, he was always going to be here."

Milton Haig: "We are looking for a bit of energy to face the All Blacks and it is right to make some changes. It is tough telling players they are not facing New Zealand, but they have bought in to our long-term goals and understand where we are trying to get to. My loyalty and responsibility is to my team. It will be a special occasion for me and I am looking forward to it.

"For Georgian rugby it is pretty historic and being in a World Cup makes it even more special. They love the game in Georgia and there is a great camaraderie in our team. We have a very forward-orientated game and we have worked hard on our discipline, but we must play with fire in our belly, too."

Ma'a Nonu
Ma'a Nonu is currently unavailable for selection after straining his shoulder in a training session on Sunday Getty

Other matches

While it is the only Rugby World Cup match taking place on Friday, New Zealand v Georgia should whet the appetite nicely for a big weekend of fixtures including England's crucial Pool A meeting with Australia at Twickenham, Scotland's battle with South Africa and Ireland's clash with Italy at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.