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Time ticks for Anton Lienert-Brown as All Black misses final round of NPC

By Tom Vinicombe
Anton Lienert-Brown. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

Despite aiming for a return to action in the final round of the NPC regular season, Anton Lienert-Brown has been omitted from the Waikato side named to tackle Bay of Plenty in Hamilton on Sunday.

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Lienert-Brown has been sidelined since undergoing surgery in April after suffering a shoulder injury against the Blues during Super Rugby Pacific. Early last month, the 27-year-old indicated that a return to action against the Steamers was a possibility, but Lienert-Brown is evidently not quite ready to make a return to action.

Instead, the 56-Test All Black is hopeful that he’ll make his first appearance in next weekend’s quarter-final match-up, which could see Waikato taking on any one of Wellington, Bay of Plenty or Hawke’s Bay.

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Speaking on New Zealand radio station Newstalk ZB, Lienert-Brown said that while his shoulder was now ready for the physical battering it’s sure to endure when he once again takes the field, there are still some targets he needs to meet before getting back into the game.

“I’m human and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t reluctancy going into contact,” he said.

“It’s really the thoughts beforehand. Once you’re out on the field it’s sweet as. I’m really confident that I’ve done enough contact now.

“It’s a funny one; for three or four months of the rehab period, you protect the shoulder, then the last couple of months you’re doing the opposite so it does take a while for the mind to adjust. I’ve got enough training under my belt now, and enough contact to be confident I’ll be sweet out there.

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“There’s a few things I’ve got to tick off first, but I’m hoping to be playing for Waikato next week, all going well.”

The All Blacks are set to depart for Japan and the UK at the end of the month and head coach Ian Foster will favour taking Lienert-Brown north, but might have reservations if his most experienced midfield option hasn’t managed to get many – or any – games under his belt.

Although Lienert-Brown suggested the end-of-year tour isn’t a primary goal at present, he has previously suggested he could play in the Heartland Cup – NZ’s second division of provincial rugby – in order to get some additional minutes before the squad travels.

While Lienert-Brown has been sidelined, he has been working with the Waikato coaches as the key strategist of backline strike moves.

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Waikato will need all their wily plays to function if they are to tip over Bay of Plenty on Sunday. The winner of the match will sew up second spot on the table in the Odds conference, but could take out first if Counties Manukau are able to upset Wellington.

Waikato: Tepaea Cook-Saveage, Mosese Dawai, Bailyn Sullivan, D’Angelo Leuila, Daniel Sinkinson, Damian McKenzie, Xavier Roe, Luke Jacobson, Mitch Jacobson, Samipeni Finau, Laghlan McWhannell, Hamilton Burr, Sefo Kautai, Rhys Marshall, Ollie Norris. Reserves: Pita Anae Ah-Sue, Rob Cobb, George Dyer, Patrick McCurran, Jack Lam, Cortez Ratima, Tana Tuhakaraina, Liam Coombes-Fabling.

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