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Squire set for Tasman return

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Liam Squire set to return to Mitre 10 Cup as All Blacks prepare for Rugby Championship

All Blacks loose forward Liam Squire won’t be in action for the New Zealand national side over the coming weeks, but he will be playing for Tasman in the Mitre 10 Cup for the first time in four years.

Squire wasn’t included in Steve Hansen’s 39-man Rugby Championship squad on Tuesday evening after withdrawing due to feeling unready for international rugby.

Consequently, he will play for the Mako in the upcoming Mitre 10 Cup, the first time he’s played for the province since 2015.

“My understanding is he will be available for the Mako season for 2019,” Tasman CEO Tony Lewis said to Stuff.

“And what happens after that in regards to the All Blacks will up to the All Blacks.”

Squire’s manager Bruce Sharrock also confirmed that the 23-test blindside flanker would be playing provincial rugby before departing New Zealand shores at the end of this year to take up a two-year deal with Top League club NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes in Japan.

He was expected to be named in the extended All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship, but was scratched from the list after requesting not to be selected by Hansen.

“I said ‘okay’, and we had a bit of a chat about that which I won’t repeat,” Hansen said on Tuesday evening.

“At the end of it we agreed and I said ‘righto, that’s a pretty courageous conversation, well done, you get back on the park and play some footy and we’ll make a decision from there’.”

28-year-old Squire endured a horror run of injuries throughout his final campaign with the Highlanders, with knee and hip injuries, as well as off-field personal issues, restricting him to just three appearances in Super Rugby this season.

The last of those three outings saw him yellow carded for a no-arms tackle on Whetu Douglas during the Highlanders’ quarter-final clash with the Crusaders in Christchurch a fortnight ago.

It’s unclear whether Squire will be made available for Tasman’s pre-season clash against Canterbury at Hanmer Springs on July 27, but he should be free to play their season-opener against Wellington in Blenheim on August 10.

Squire will still be in the selection frame for the World Cup, but while he plays in the Mitre 10 Cup, Hansen will have to utilise other members of his squad to fill the void at No 6.

As a result, the likes of Vaea Fifita, Shannon Frizell, Jackson Hemopo and the uncapped Luke Jacobson will all come into consideration to start at blindside flanker when the All Blacks take on Argentina in Buenos Aires on July 20.

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Liam Squire set to return to Mitre 10 Cup as All Blacks prepare for Rugby Championship