It’s only been a matter of hours since Tony Brown was unveiled as Highlanders head coach for the next two seasons, but he has already name dropped a former All Blacks star as a priority on his recruitment wish list.
A year-and-a-half after his last appearance for the Highlanders, Liam Squire could be set for a return to Forsyth Barr Stadium after Brown revealed to Stuff that he has held meetings with the 23-test All Blacks loose forward about coming back to Dunedin.
The 29-year-old is back in New Zealand following a short-term stint in Japan this year, plying his trade with NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes, the club of which current All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara recently signed with.
Squire told RugbyPass in September that his two-year deal with the club ended prematurely due to a lingering knee and hip injuries that he decided to take care of back in New Zealand.
“I actually injured my knee early on in the [Japanese] season but once Covid hit, it was decided I’d return to get it fixed in NZ,” the robust blindside flanker, who can also play No. 8, told RugbyPass.
“That was nothing major but during that break, we decided I would also get my hip cleaned out.
“That’s an ongoing injury I’ve been dealing with and managing for a number of years now so for me, it’s a massive relief to finally be able to get my body back to 100 per cent.
“The downside is that it’s come at a cost in that I won’t be able to return to Japan.”
As such, he currently stands as a free agent, with Brown telling Stuff that he is eager to bring Squire back to the franchise of which he played 33 times for between 2016 and 2019.
“If he’s keen and available and ready to go we would definitely look at Liam Squire again,” Brown told Stuff.
“For me, he’s pretty unique in New Zealand rugby.
“There’s not many players around New Zealand who can do what he can do.
“I think he becomes fit again he’s going to be devastating.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 19, 2020
Brown, who was announced as Aaron Mauger’s successor as head coach of the Highlanders on a two-year deal following a Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign that saw the franchise finish fourth, told Stuff he has held a meeting with Squire about his availability.
“I’ve had a good meeting with Liam just to see where he’s at,” Brown said.
“He’s obviously got a big rehab ahead of him. He’s returning from a hip operation and a knee operation.
“Hopefully he gets through that rehabilitation and is capable of playing at his best again.”
The acquisition of Squire would leave the Highlanders in good stead within their loose forward contingent.
The franchise already boasts the likes of current All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell, emerging prospect Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, captain James Lentjes, Japan World Cup star Kazuki Himeno and Crusaders recruit Billy Harmon for the 2021 season.
Brown told Stuff that there are further spots that needs filling for next year, including in the outside backs and at lock, although he suggested there are signings that have been completed but are yet to be announced.
“We’ve made a couple of really good signings. I’m not sure they’ve been announced yet, I think that will be in the future.”
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