Expect Liam Squire to be included in the All Blacks’ 31-man World Cup squad at midday on Wednesday.
According to Stuff, the 23-test star has notified All Blacks management that he has made himself available for selection for next month’s tournament, making him a frontrunner to be included in what should be a five-man loose forward group.
Squire had earlier imposed an exile from the national team on himself, becoming unavailable for the All Blacks’ 39-man Rugby Championship squad last month after injuries and personal issues ruined his Super Rugby campaign.
He had told All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen that he “didn’t feel ready” to play test rugby following just three matches for the Highlanders this year, and has instead been plying his trade in the Mitre 10 Cup with Tasman.
While playing for the Mako, Squire has impressed onlookers with a string of commanding performances in Tasman’s opening three matches of the season.
With two tries to his name, the 28-year-old’s physicality and abrasiveness from the side of the scrum have been noticeable as his side remains unbeaten with spellbinding victories over Wellington, Canterbury and Manawatu to kick-off their 2019 season.
Those displays from Squire has led to calls from many for the NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes-bound loose forward to be included in the World Cup squad, but that was always going to come down to whether he felt ready to make the step back up to international rugby.
After letting selectors Hansen, Ian Foster and Grant Fox know that he is willing to return to the test arena, it is now up to them to fast track him back into the national set-up, and it’s difficult not to envisage them doing so.
Squire has been a valued member of the All Blacks since the decline of veteran No. 6 Jerome Kaino two years ago, and has been regularly deployed as the team’s starting blindside flanker.
His self-imposed omission from test rugby has seen Vaea Fifita, Luke Jacobson, Shannon Frizell and Ardie Savea all tried on the short side of the scrum, but none – aside from Savea – have really filled Squire’s boots.
Even with a comprehensive outing at No. 6 against Australia at Eden Park a fortnight ago, the in-form Savea doesn’t possess the same brutality on defence and attack that Squire provides, which is what the national coaches rate so highly about him.
Those coaches can now equip their side with those benefits that Squire brings in two days’ time.
He will be supported by Savea, Sam Cane and Kieran Read, all of whom are certainties to be selected in the loose forwards, while openside flanker Matt Todd should earn himself a place on the plane as the back-up out-and-out openside behind Cane.
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