'It's not TJ's fault': Perenara's fast-track back into the All Blacks
Despite all signs pointing to TJ Perenara enjoying an extended run of matches for Wellington in the NPC ahead of any return to international rugby, All Blacks coach Ian Foster has quashed that plan and will instead inject Perenara back into the fold this weekend.
Perenara has been named in the reserves for Saturday’s rematch with the Wallabies ahead of Chiefs captain Brad Weber, who has started one match for NZ this year and come off the bench in the two most recent wins over Fiji and Australia.
The 29-year-old signed a new deal with New Zealand Rugby earlier in 2021 which will see him remain contracted through to the next Rugby World Cup in 2023. Because Perenara hadn’t played Super Rugby this season, however, he wasn’t eligible for selection in the July series and instead played a handful of club rugby matches.
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Foster, however, initially wanted Perenara to get himself back up to speed with the game via playing for Wellington in the NPC, and brought Christie back into the squad as a temporary stop-gap.
Perenara was released to play for Wellington last weekend but a late injury to Christie at All Blacks training saw Perenara whisked back into the group.
Now, Perenara is set to make his All Blacks return via the bench on Saturday.
“First of all, it’s not TJ’s fault he didn’t play last week, really,” Foster said on Thursday. “It was a disappointing thing with Finlay’s injury and the plan was to give him a couple of weeks in our environment and maybe hopefully play for Wellington. That part didn’t eventuate but I think it’s just a chance to get him back involved.”
“That’s more of a straight swap, just to get TJ back in there and give him an opportunity to get back on the park so certainly not an inditement on Brad at all and I’m pretty sure that competition will keep going.”
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Foster also shed light on Christie’s current injury predicament, suggesting that the Tasman and Blues halfback could be out of action for some time yet.
“He’s obviously gone back to Tasman,” said Foster. “He’s got a small muscle tear in his shoulder. They’re talking four to six weeks.”
The injury will be a significant blow to Christie, who is coming off the best Super Rugby season of the young halfback’s career to date. Even if there was no space in the national set-up for the 25-year-old, he would have undoubtedly been looking forward to continuing his solid form for the current provincial champions.
Brad Weber, meanwhile, might be feeling a little bit hard done by, given his performances for both the Chiefs and the All Blacks this year.
Perenara’s last appearance for the All Blacks came in their final test of 2020, a 38-0 thrashing of Argentina.
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