Emoni Narawa’s Rugby World Cup dream has been cruelly ended before it could even begin, with a back injury meaning an early flight home for the Fijian-born winger.
Narawa, 24, has enjoyed a rapid rise in 2023 – shining for the Chiefs in Super Rugby Pacific, leading to his first test call-up earlier this year.
A try on his test debut only added to that rise but a back injury in victory over Argentina has seen Narawa sidelined ever since.
Despite injury concerns, Narawa was named by coach Ian Foster as part of the 33-man squad for France as one of a bulky contingent of outside backs, seeing the All Blacks short in the forwards.
“[It’s] incredibly sad,” said Foster. “In the Twickenham week, he ran his fastest time of the year, he was coming back.
“His preparation has been really good, trending right up. It’s obviously been a niggling back from the Argentinian test.
“He was coming right, he trained really well.
“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.
“It’s incredibly sad for him, he’s worked hard to get here and we’re excited about where he’s at.
“The best thing for him from here is to go and rehab at home. It’s not the nicest thing to do as a coach at the start, to tell someone they’re going home.
“He’s a popular part of this group, and I know he’ll do the right thing.”
Foster also confirmed that an injury replacement for Narawa will be named after Saturday’s (NZ time) World Cup opener against France.
As to who that player will be, though, is anyone’s guess.
But injury to Shannon Frizell exposed that potential shortcoming, seeing Dalton Papali’i slot in at No.6 due to the lack of specialist options to face France.
Should the All Blacks look to go like-for-like, though, Chiefs and North Harbour fullback Shaun Stevenson could be the man packing his bags to head to France and add to his one test cap accrued this year.
“We’ll weigh that up after Friday, just to see where we’re at,” Foster added. “We clearly have to make a change,” he said.