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Squire in contention for RWC

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Liam Squire still in contention for All Blacks World Cup squad, but only 'if he's interested'

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has left the door open for Liam Squire to be re-called into the New Zealand squad for the World Cup next month, but only “if he’s interested”.

The robust loose forward made himself unavailable for All Blacks selection for the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup, telling Hansen that he “didn’t think he was ready” for international rugby following an injury-plagued Super Rugby campaign.

The 28-year-old, who will join Japanese club NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes on a two-year deal next year, only played three matches for the Highlanders this season, with knee and hip injuries as well as “personal family issues” ruling him out of action for the Dunedin franchise’s first 14 matches.

Hansen labelled Squire’s self-imposed exile from the national squad as a “brave decision”, but his absence from the side has been noticeable.

Squire had been used as the All Blacks’ premier blindside flanker following the departure of long-serving veteran Jerome Kaino to Toulouse in 2017, but Hansen has struggled to find a replacement for Squire since the 23-test star, who is renowned for abrasive ball-carrying and physical style of play, made himself unavailable.

Shannon Frizell appeared to be the next cab off the rank in the national blindside flanker pecking order, but was one of five players, alongside Blues youngster Dalton Papalii, to be culled from the squad ahead of the Bledisloe Cup series.

That left Vaea Fifita and Luke Jacobson as the only primary options at No 6, but Fifita struggled to impress when fielded against Argentina and South Africa, while Jacobson is dealing with concussion symptoms.

Second-rowers Jackson Hemopo and the suspended Scott Barrett can also cover the position, but have been mainly deployed in their core roles as locks.

Traditional openside flanker Ardie Savea started at blindside flanker during the All Blacks’ record 47-26 defeat against the Wallabies in Perth last week, and has been named to start there again for the re-match in Auckland on Saturday.

Hours before New Zealand’s Bledisloe Cup capitulation at Optus Stadium last Saturday, Squire started at No 8 for Tasman in their Mitre 10 Cup opener against Wellington in Blenheim.

He went on to be a key figure in the Mako’s 45-8 demolition of the Lions at Lansdowne Park, scoring the match’s opening try in an emphatic first half display.

Liam Squire scores for Tasman in their 45-8 thrashing of Wellington in Blenheim last weekend. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

When asked at a press conference on Thursday, Hansen confirmed that Squire was still in the selection frame for the All Blacks’ World Cup squad, which is due to be named in the coming weeks.

“Yeah he is,” the 60-year-old coach said.

“But it’s whether he wants to be considered or not, that’s the key thing.”

Hansen went on to tell media that he and his fellow selectors, Ian Foster and Grant Fox, would take a keen interest in the Mitre 10 Cup as they track Squire’s form, which he admitted was “pretty impressive” against Wellington.

Squire has not spoken to the media since removing himself from national contention, but is expected to face Canterbury in Christchurch this weekend as Tasman look to make it two wins from their opening two matches of the Mitre 10 Cup season.

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Liam Squire still in contention for All Blacks World Cup squad, but only 'if he's interested'