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All Blacks inclusion of TJ Perenara riddled with complications

By Michael Pulman
TJ Perenara lead an All Blacks haka. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The impending All Black reintroduction of TJ Perenara might be the obvious and natural decision for the here and now, but one could argue that it is also problematic in the very same sense.


Few would have been surprised to hear the 29-year-old’s name included in the All Blacks squad for The Rugby Championship, with his level of experience and quality being undeniably welcome.

Over the course of his 69 test appearances, Perenara has proven he can consistently perform and bring unquestionable leadership traits on some of the biggest stages.

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Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, featuring Ross Karl, James Parsons and Bryn Hall.
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Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, featuring Ross Karl, James Parsons and Bryn Hall.

If we are to look at it in that light, his naming in the 36-man squad for The Rugby Championship is undeniably the logical decision – but he is also very much a player who’s been there and done that.

This means that his seemingly unchallenged stroll back into the All Blacks at the first available opportunity has come at a big cost to others.

Finlay Christie is the most notable in this category. While he might be in the squad as injury cover, he is really only holding the water unless plans drastically change once The Rugby Championship really kicks into gear from mid-August.

If we are to be fair, is this really the ideal way to reward Christie for a stellar Super Rugby season and a more than capable first two outings for the All Blacks?


That is the nature of the beast in modern rugby: fairness should rarely come into the equation when teams have to select their best. But by the same token, it’s also the least ideal way to acknowledge just how many serious overseas offers the Blues halfback turned down to stay and chase his All Black dream.

Similar for standout Crusaders generals Mitch Drummond and Bryn Hall, two names consistent in form and both bizarrely are yet to get a credible look in.

Like Christie, these two must now be wondering if they missed a trick by not taking their chances offshore.


Meanwhile, since his return to New Zealand in May, Perenara has been playing club rugby. The void of top-level rugby (due to the conclusion of domestic seasons et cetera) has forced this in part, leaving All Blacks coach Ian Foster to all but admit he will be forced to send Perenara to Wellington and the NPC for at least one round.

“The likelihood is that we will use his [Perenara’s] Wellington NPC team for a week or two,” Foster told media on Monday.

“We have found that the guys who come back from Japan just take a little bit of time to get back up to the level we want so we need to make sure we’ve got the ability to drop guys back whenever we can.”

All this, and we haven’t even discussed the somewhat questionable public tactic of “will I or won’t I” Perenara played out with both the NRL and New Zealand Rugby prior to his return.

That’s business, and in the end, Perenara chose to come home but will maintain his status of being a very shrewd operator who’s well aware of his own brand and its pulling power.

On the rugby field where it really matters, he will have to perform to the same level he has previously, and then some.

There is far too much talent waiting in the wings to justify it in any other way.


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