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TJ Perenara back in All Blacks squad after Japan stint

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Hurricanes’ captain TJ Perenara makes a pass during the Super Rugby match between New Zealand’s Hurricanes and Japan’s Sunwolves at McLean Park in Napier on February 29 last year. AFP

TJ Perenara back in All Blacks squad after Japan stint

Veteran halfback TJ Perenara was welcomed back into the All Blacks squad named Monday for the upcoming Rugby Championship after returning from a stint playing in Japan.

Perenara had flirted with the idea of switching to rugby league in Australia after his contract with Japan’s NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes expired but instead signed on with New Zealand for a tilt at the 2023 World Cup.

The 29-year-old was rewarded with a spot in the 36-man squad for the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup tournaments.

He replaces rookie Finlay Christie, who will remain with the squad as temporary cover.

Braydon Ennor returns to the squad after missing recent Tests against Fiji and Tonga with appendicitis.

Among the forwards, props Joe Moody and Ofa Tu’ungafasi return from injury at the expense of George Bower and Ethan de Groot.

Otherwise the squad is unchanged from the one that faced the Pacific islanders, with Sam Whitelock again named captain as regular skipper Sam Cane recovers from chest surgery.

The All Blacks face Australia in the three-match Bledisloe Cup opening in Auckland on August 14, with the final two matches of the series doubling as Rugby Championship fixtures.

Coach Ian Foster said his players were excited at the prospect of playing the Wallabies, who are on a high after a series win over France.

“It’s our first challenge, we’re playing for a trophy that is massively important to us, and we’re both coming in fresh off our respective series wins, so it bodes well for a great series,” he said.

The New Zealanders will then play two Tests apiece against Argentina and South Africa, who return to the Rugby Championship after missing last year’s competition due to the pandemic.

Backs: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Quinn Tupaea, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie, Sevu Reece.

Forwards: Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody, Angus Ta’avao, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa’i, Sam Whitelock (capt), Ethan Blackadder, Shannon Frizell, Akira Ioane, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea, Hoskins Sotutu.

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