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'Every time he put a shoulder on, you felt it': What facing Liam Squire was like

By Sam Smith

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Liam Squire announced that he is retiring from all forms of rugby on medical advice due to an ongoing knee injury, with the 30-year-old hanging up the boots after a year-long attempt at a Highlanders comeback.

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The former All Black played in Japan during 2020 for the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes before coming home to rejoin the Highlanders where he played some of his best rugby from 2016-19.

On this week’s Aotearoa Rugby Pod, James Parsons and Bryn Hall reflected on what Squire brought to the All Blacks and Highlanders in his time with them, saying he gave those two teams a ‘hell of a lot’.

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“Absolutely he did. Even his time at the Chiefs he was really effective, and we know how he loved playing for the Mako as well,” Parsons said.

“Everywhere he’s gone, he’s definitely been one of the better players. Not only was he that enforcer, the beauty of Liam is he could go between those roles, he had some real X-factor about him, had that turn of pace, explosive athlete skillset.

“He knew when to do the tight stuff, but also could show his wares out on that edge. As we know, the 6 jersey in the All Blacks is always a big enforcer role.

“He certainly left no stone unturned when he wore that and every other jersey he wore.”

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Some of Squire’s most memorable moments for the All Blacks include pacing down the left touchline in Sydney to score the opening try in the first Bledisloe test of 2017, charging past centre Samu Kerevi and halfback Will Genia to score untouched out wide.

He possessed speed that few loose forwards have, which was used to offer devastating impact out in the wider channels for the teams he played for.

The dynamic 6 scored three of his four test tries against the Wallabies over his 23-test career.

His last test came in 2018 against Ireland in Dublin, as he decided to step away from the All Blacks environment heading into the World Cup year.

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Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall recalled playing against Squire on the provincial and Super Rugby circuit, saying that Squire used to give him ‘nightmares’ on the pitch in defence.

“He made me look silly a few times as well. We joke on this podcast about Ardie Savea and how many nightmares I have. Before Ardie, there was Liam,” Hall said.

“He was just really explosive, he talk around his attacking ability especially on the edge plays, being able to get free-flowing ball and build up a bit of speed, it was his physical side that for me that I thought was a massive difference.

Hall explained that watchers may not have realised how physical Squire was at times, which potentially led to some of the injuries he had as every time he put a tackle in, the ball carrier felt it.

“The ‘enforcer’ role with what Jerome Kaino brought to the jersey, Jerry Collins, that number six role, Liam Squire fit right into that,” Hall said.

“Possibly had a few injuries due to how physical and his mindset when it came to the defensive side of the ball because every time he put a shoulder on or tried to hit somebody, you really felt it.

“You knew going into a game that you would have to watch out with both eyes if Liam Squire was around.

“A really great man who played a lot of great rugby for two teams, one was the All Blacks and then again with the Highlanders, who he came back for because of how much love he has for that club.”

Although Squire hadn’t played for the All Blacks for a few years before his retirement, the All Blacks haven’t been able to settle on a number 6 since he left in the squad.

A number of players have battled for the role, including Shannon Frizell, Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii, Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackadder while Ardie Savea has also been used there.

Former All Black James Parsons gave Akira Ioane the lead when it comes to becoming the next long-term All Blacks blindside, saying his performances over the last two seasons have done enough to hold off the competition for now.

“I think you have to say it is in Akira’s own destiny at the moment,” Parsons said.

“He’s performed extremely well. He had a really strong finish to last season as well, which gave him first rights I suppose to the jersey this year.

“He’s continued that on with some even better performances and some career-best form in the All Black jersey. He’s definitely a frontrunner but as we always say with this loose forward trio, I don’t think there is ever a chance you can sit back and relax.

“There is so much energy from the people behind you wanting a sniff at the same jersey, Shannon Frizell one, Ethan Blackadder we all know what he’s done, Dalton Papalii can play all three, Ardie Savea can go there with Sam Cane coming back.

“It will be a hotly contested jersey at 6 and hotly contested at 7 and 8.”

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'Every time he put a shoulder on, you felt it': What facing Liam Squire was like

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