Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global
NZ NZ

Returning All Blacks loose forward Liam Squire headlines 2021 Highlanders squad

By Alex McLeod
Liam Squire. (Original photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

Former All Blacks loose forward Liam Squire will return to Super Rugby next year after signing with the Highlanders for 2021. Squire, who made 33 appearances for the Highlanders between 2016 and 2019, departed New Zealand last year following a title-winning spell in the Mitre 10 Cup with the Tasman Mako.

ADVERTISEMENT

Linking up with the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes, the 29-year-old managed just four outings with his Japanese club before a knee injury and the advent of COVID-19 cut his Top League experience short.

He has since returned to New Zealand, where he has also undergone hip surgery, and has inked a deal that will see him back in action at Forsyth Barr Stadium during next year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.

Video Spacer

The “unbelievable ability” that makes Will Jordan so good | Aotearoa Rugby Pod | RugbyPass

Video Spacer

The “unbelievable ability” that makes Will Jordan so good | Aotearoa Rugby Pod | RugbyPass

“After getting that hip surgery and how I was feeling, and also probably a couple other little things, I sort of felt like I had a bit left here in New Zealand,” Squire, who still holds aspirations of a test rugby return, said of his decision to rejoin the Highlanders.

“I guess staying home and playing Super Rugby again was quite exciting. I sort of feel refreshed again, so I sort of got my second wind, which is good.”

The 23-test All Black is one of two returning Highlanders and among eight new players who didn’t feature in this year’s campaign.

Joining Squire in his franchise comeback is 34-year-old prop Josh Hohneck, who was part of the Highlanders side that clinched a maiden Super Rugby crown back in 2015.

ADVERTISEMENT

Departing for England the following year, Hohneck spent four seasons in the Gallagher Premiership with Gloucester where he played over 100 matches before returning to New Zealand to play for Otago in the Mitre 10 Cup.

His strong form for the province has earned him selection in the Maori All Blacks side to face Moana Pasifika in Hamilton this weekend.

Hohneck isn’t the only player making their way back from England to play for the Highlanders next year, with two-test All Blacks lock Bryn Evans named in the squad to fill the void left by Waratahs-bound second-rower Jack Whetton.

Evans, the older brother of one-test All Blacks, Hurricanes and ex-Highlanders flanker Gareth, has spent the last nine years in Europe after his surprise test call-up in 2009, plying his trade for the likes of London Irish, Biarritz and Sale Sharks.

ADVERTISEMENT

So good was the 36-year-old Hawke’s Bay veteran in Europe that he was named in former England midfielder Will Greenwood’s Premiership Team of the Decade, meaning he will add good depth to the squad’s lock stocks.

That trio are the only three players whose arrivals hadn’t already been officially announced by the Highlanders for next season.

They will be joined by three-test Wallabies prop Jermaine Ainsley, Japan loose forward Kazuki Himeno, ex-Chiefs speedster Solomon Alaimalo and former Crusaders duo Fetuli Paea and Billy Harmon as the newbies of the squad.

The loose forwards subsequently look an area of strength, with Squire, Himeno and Harmon adding a lot of experience and talent to a contingent that already features the likes of Shannon Frizell, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u and ex-captain James Lentjes.

Lentjes was named as skipper of the side at the beginning of this year’s campaign, but had his season cut short in February after breaking his leg badly against the Melbourne Rebels.

He hasn’t featured since, and has lost his captaincy to veteran pair Aaron Smith and Ash Dixon, both of whom co-captained the side through Super Rugby Aotearoa.

It’s a similar story for youngsters Sam Gilbert, Connor Garden-Bachop and Thomas Umaga-Jensen, all of whom have played limited roles at the Highlanders over the past two seasons due to long-term injuries.

However, those three have been retained, and will be eager to compete for starting roles, which may come easier with the likes of flanker Dillon Hunt, Taranaki midfielder Teihorangi Walden and wings Kirisi Kuridrani and Tevita Nabura all moving on.

One-test All Blacks flanker Hunt has signed with his hometown team the Blues, while Walden and Counties Manukau duo Kuridrani and Nabura have all been released.

The trio are just three of many players who won’t feature for the Highlanders after being involved this year, with Rob Thompson and Jesse Parete defecting to Japan, while Bryn Gatland has signed with the Chiefs.

Others, including Waikato prop Josh Iosefa-Scott, Bay of Plenty and Tonga flanker Zane Kapeli, and Canterbury fullback Josh McKay, have all been let go.

Furthermore, the inclusion of outside back Vilimoni Koroi has been clouded by his All Blacks Sevens commitments, with the 22-year-old set to assemble with the national sevens side in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics in July and August.

Nevertheless, new head coach Tony Brown – who returns to the position after three years away in other roles, including serving as an assistant to former head coach Aaron Mauger in 2020 – remains excited about his side’s prospects for the new-look season.

“I think we had a lot of young guys last year and I think we’re going to have a lot of experience at Super Rugby level around what it takes to win games, especially in the dying moments of the game, the last 20 minutes,” he said.

“With a lot more experience, I think we’ve got a better team and a team that can really compete at the highest level.

“So, hoping to play some pretty good footy, but, in the key moments in games, with a bit more experience, I think we’re going to hopefully execute a bit better instead of losing by a couple of points. We’re going to be winning those games.”

2020-21 Highlanders transfers

IN: Jermaine Ainsley (Melbourne Rebels), Bryn Evans (Sale Sharks), Billy Harmon (Crusaders), Kazuki Himeno (Toyota Verblitz), Josh Hohneck (Gloucester), Liam Squire (NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes), Fetuli Paea (Crusaders)

OUT: Tima Fainga’anuku (released), Bryn Gatland (Chiefs), Dillon Hunt (Blues), Josh Iosefa-Scott (released), Zane Kapeli (released), Kirisi Kuridrani (released), Josh McKay (released), Tevita Nabura (released), Jesse Parete (Canon Eagles), Rob Thompson (Toyota Verblitz), Nathan Vella (released), Teihorangi Walden (released), Jack Whetton (Waratahs)

Highlanders Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby Trans-Tasman 2021 squad

Hookers: Liam Coltman, Ash Dixon (cc), Ricky Jackson

Props: Jermaine Ainsley*, Ethan De Groot, Josh Hohneck**, Ayden Johnstone, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Siate Tokolahi, Jeff Thwaites

Locks: Josh Dickson, Bryn Evans*, Pari Pari Parkinson, Manaaki Selby-Rickit

Loose Forwards: Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Shannon Frizell, Billy Harmon*, Kazuki Himeno*, James Lentjes, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Sione Misiloi, Liam Squire**

Halfbacks: Folau Fakatava, Kayne Hammington, Aaron Smith (cc)

First-Fives: Mitch Hunt, Josh Ioane

Midfielders: Michael Collins, Scott Gregory, Fetuli Paea*, Sio Tomkinson, Thomas Umaga-Jensen

Outside Backs: Solomon Alaimalo*, Connor Garden-Bachop, Sam Gilbert, Vilimoni Koroi***, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Jona Nareki, Ngatungane Punivai

* – denotes new Highlanders in 2021

** – denotes returning Highlanders in 2021

*** – Koroi will assemble with the All Blacks Sevens squad in preparation of the Tokyo Olympics

Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:

ADVERTISEMENT

Join free

Japan Rugby League One | Bravelupus v Eagles | Full Match Replay

Big Jim Show | Guinness Six Nations | England v Scotland

Vancouver SVNS - Day 2 - Full Replay

Vancouver SVNS - Day 1 - Full Replay

Life on Tour: 4

Wolfhounds v Clovers | Celtic Challenge 2024 | Full Match Replay

Boks Office | Jesse Kriel reveals the hardest team he had to play at the Rugby World Cup

Big Jim Walks and Talks with Handré Pollard

WHISTLEBLOWERS

Trending on RugbyPass

Comments

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free
ADVERTISEMENT

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

f
finn 4 hours ago
Why the world needs a reverse Lions tour

I think there’s a lot of reasons this wouldn’t work, but if we’re just proposing fun things how about a “World Series” held the june/july following a world cup. The teams competing each four years would be: the current world champions The Pacific Islands The British & Irish Lions The World XV Barbarians FC to ensure all teams are fairly evenly matched, the current world champions would name their squad first; then The Pacific Islands would name next, and would be able to select any pacific qualified players not selected by the world champions, including players already “captured” by non-pacific nations who would otherwise have been eligible for selection (eg. Bundee Aki); the Lions would select next; and then The World XV and Barbarians FC would be left to fight over anyone not selected. Some people will point out that 5 teams is too many for a mid-year round robin, particularly as it would be nice to have a final as well; and they would be right! But because we’re just having fun here we’re going to innovate an entirely new format for rugby, where the round robin is played in one stadium over the course of one day, with each game lasting just 40 minutes with no half time or change of ends. The round robin decides the seedings for the knockouts, which are contested by all 5 teams in one stadium over the course of one day, according to the following schedule: Knockout Round 1: seed 5 v seed 4 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Quarter Final: winner of Round 1 v seed 3 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Semi Final: winner of Quarter Final v seed 2 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Final: winner of Semi Final v seed 1 (played as a standard 80 minute rugby match) for the round robin, teams would name a 15 man starting lineup and a 16 man bench. Substitutions during games can only be made for injuries, but any number of substitutions can be made between games. The same rules apply for the finals, except that we return to having a regular 8 man bench, and would allow substitutions as normal during the 80 minute final.

12 Go to comments
S
Simon 6 hours ago
Is the Six Nations balance of power shifting?

There are a few issues with the article. Despite somehow getting to a RWC semi final, England are nowhere near Probable status and should be swapped with Scotland on current form. France’s failure at RWC 23 has massively hit their mindset. Psychologically, they need a reset of gigantic proportions otherwise they will revert to, Top 14 first, international rugby an afterthought again. Ireland are allowed to play the way they are by less than acceptable officiating. Make no bones about it, with Easterby coaching, Ireland cheat, they break the rules at almost every facet of the game and generally referees, influenced by the media that Ireland are somehow playing the best rugby in the world, allow them. Scrums - Porter never pushes straight and immediately turns in. The flankers lose their binds and almost latch on to the opposition props. Rucks - they always and I mean always clear out from the side and take players out beyond the ball, effectively taking them out of being ready for the next phase. Not once do green shirts enter rucks from the rear foot. Referees should be made to look at the video of the game against Wales and see that Irish backs and forwards happily enter rucks from the side to effect a clearout, thus giving them the sub 3 second ruck speed everybody dreams about. They also stand in offside positions at rucks to ‘block’ opposing players from making clear tackles allowing the ball carrier to break the gainline almost every time. They then turn and are always ahead of play and therefore enter subsequent rucks illegally. Mauls - there is always a blocker between the ball catcher and the opposition. It is subtle but it is there. Gatland still needs to break the shackles and allow his team a bit more freedom to play rugby. He no longer has a team of 16 stone plus players who batter the gainline. He has to adapt and be more thoughtful in attack. Scotland are playing well but they have the creaky defence that leaks tries.

23 Go to comments
FEATURE
FEATURE Our friends in the North Our friends in the North
Search