Perenara relishing being back in the All Blacks
All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara may have had a career knockback after missing the call earlier in the year, but he was relishing his opportunity after joining the side in Edinburgh ahead of Monday’s Test against Scotland at Murrayfield.
Perenara never let his non-inclusion get him down. He understood it provided a chance to be involved in some teams he didn’t usually play in.
That included playing for the Māori All Blacks for the first time. Playing for his Norths club side, being coached by his father Thomas for the first time in a long time, and winning the Ranfurly Shield and Bunnings NPC title with the Wellington Lions.
Throughout it all, he went out to play and express himself and play a style of rugby he liked to play and being in winning environments was a boost.
But he said he was in the game for the journey, not the destination. That view was the product of maturity, and he remained grateful for everything professional rugby provided for him.
Life experience meant different things put rugby in perspective. Losing his All Blacks place this year was not the worst thing. He lost one of his best mates to a heart attack. Missing the All Blacks didn’t even compete with that, he said.
“As you get older, you go through life’s challenges, and it puts things in perspective.
“If you’re part of a team that plays well, you put yourself in a position to be called up into higher honours. If I wasn’t called back in, I was still enjoying the quality of football I was playing.
“I still want to improve and get better.”
Sharing Wellington’s Bunnings NPC triumph and winning and defending, the Ranfurly Shield meant the season had been special.
“With the squad we had, we knew we were good enough to be in contention if we played well. We didn’t start that well, but we knew with the experience in the group, and the talent within the young boys we had, if we could start clicking, we were going to give ourselves a good opportunity.
“We would have been disappointed if we weren’t battling for a championship at the backend of the season. To be in that position come playoffs, ranked first in our division, gave us a good run to the final.
“Three weeks out from the playoffs, we had that Ranfurly Shield challenge, then we had to defend it, and then we had to beat Counties Manukau [away] to secure the top spot. That gave us a good lead-in to the playoffs, so it was pretty much playoff games from that Ranfurly Shield game.
“The experiences we got as a group helped us. It was awesome to be part of a really good group of boys, and I look forward to some of those boys’ futures, not only in that jersey but in higher honours too.”
He cherished achieving what they did with some of his rugby mates like Julian Savea, Du’Plessis Kirifi and Billy Proctor.
The desire to play in next year’s Rugby World Cup was still burning, and he said it was something every rugby player aspired to do.
Playing Scotland, if selected, would be special. They had been playing well in recent years, and in their last two games against the All Blacks, the margins had been eight points and five, so playing in Edinburgh had been difficult.
“We understand the threats that they have. They’re a very good team both with and without the ball. We’re looking forward to the challenge. We know we played well against Wales but for us to be where we want to be we have to continue to improve.”
Restored to the side on the back of an impressive effort for the All Blacks XV against Ireland A, Perenara said it had been frustrating having to watch the All Blacks struggle during the earlier part of their programme.
Not being able to contribute by being in the environment was the biggest factor, whether that was in the playing XV or not.
“I love where this group has gotten to, I love where we’re heading to, so it was hard not being there, but I am excited about being here now.”
The All Blacks were also excited by what the Black Ferns have achieved in their Rugby World Cup.
“The growth in that team has been inspiring. I know they had some tough times last year, but they’ve come together, united, and they’ve grown so much.
“The footy they are playing is something we all can be proud of as New Zealanders and fans of rugby and we’re looking forward to seeing them go to battle at the weekend.”
Perenara said he would watch the women’s Rugby World Cup final and acknowledged Kendra Cocksedge’s last Test for the side.
“She’s a legend of the game, not only here in New Zealand but in world rugby. She can be proud of the impact she’s had on women’s rugby and on rugby itself. It will take a little for her to reflect on it to see how impactful she has been to the game of rugby and, especially, our young wāhine in New Zealand.
“The legacy she is going to leave is amazing. There’s going to be kids talking about her for a long time,” he said.
England side to face Ireland in Six Nations
Captain Owen Farrell will start at fly half, Manu Tuilagi returns to the side at inside centre with Henry Slade at outside centre. There is a first England start for Henry Arundell on the left wing, Anthony Watson is at right wing, and Freddie Steward is full back.
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In the forward pack Lewis Ludlam is named vice-captain and is flanker alongside Jack Willis. Alex Dombrandt is at No. 8. In the same front row that has started each game of the championship, vice-captain Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler are at prop and Jamie George is at hooker. David Ribbans starts at lock with Maro Itoje.
Dan Cole is in line to make his 100th appearance for England after being named as replacement. Cole made his England debut in the Six Nations in February 2010. He has gone on to play in three Rugby World Cups and has won three Guinness Six Nations titles.
Nick Isiekwe and Joe Marchant return to the bench, along with Jack Walker, Mako Vunipola, Ben Curry, Alex Mitchell and Marcus Smith.
“We travel to Dublin to face an Ireland team on Saturday that has the chance to secure a Grand Slam Championship victory at home for the first time” said Borthwick.
“We know that after the bitter disappointment of the display against an exceptional France team last week, we will have to be much improved to meet the challenge of playing the side presently ranked number one in the world.
“However, I have witnessed an England squad determined to make amends for the defeat at Twickenham, and I am confident that the team announced today will once again want to show the sort of resilience and attitude that brought us victory in Wales.”
Team to face Ireland
15. Freddie Steward
14. Anthony Watson
13. Henry Slade
12. Manu Tuilagi
11. Henry Arundell
10. Owen Farrell (C)
1. Ellis Genge (VC)
2. Jamie George
4. Maro Itoje
6. Lewis Ludlam (VC)
7. Jack Willis
16. Jack Walker
17. Mako Vunipola
18. Dan Cole
19. Nick Isiekwe
20. Ben Curry
21. Alex Mitchell
22. Marcus Smith
23. Joe Marchant
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Ireland Squad Named For Guinness Six Nations Super Saturday
Ireland will take on England at a sold-out Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening (Kick-off 5pm) for the chance to claim the Guinness Six Nations Championship title, the Triple Crown and a fourth Men’s Grand Slam title.
World Player of the Year Josh van der Flier will win his 50th cap on Saturday. He lines out in an unchanged back row as Caelan Doris is named to start alongside him and Peter O’Mahony.
In the front row, Dan Sheehan has been passed fit and will start with Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong on either side of the scrum. Rob Herring comes in on the bench in place of Ronan Kelleher.
Ryan Baird, who came on for the injured Iain Henderson in Scotland, will partner James Ryan in the second row with Kieran Treadwell named in the replacements.
Captain Johnny Sexton will be partnered at half-back by Jamison Gibson Park and Robbie Henshaw comes into the centre to play alongside Bundee Aki. The back three of Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen and James Lowe start for a fifth consecutive Six Nations fixture.
Sexton equalled Ronan O’Gara’s Six Nations Championship all-time points scorer record (557 points) against Scotland and can become the outright top points scorer against England this weekend.
Jimmy O’Brien come into the match day 23 to join Cian Healy, Tom O’Toole, Jack Conan, Conor Murray and Ross Byrne who all featured last weekend in Murrayfield.
Ireland’s final game of the Championship will be broadcast live on VIRGIN and ITV television and RTE and BBCNI radio.
IRELAND Team (v England, 2023 Guinness Six Nations Championship, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Saturday 18th March, 2023, KO 17.00 (IST))
15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 29 caps
14. Mack Hansen (Connacht/Corinthians) 13 caps
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 61 caps
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 45 caps
11. James Lowe (Leinster) 19 caps
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 112 caps (c)
9. Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 24 caps
1. Andrew Porter (Leinster/UCD) 52 caps
2. Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 16 caps
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 64 caps
4. Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 10 caps
5. James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 52 caps
6. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 93 caps
7. Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 49 caps
8. Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 27 caps
16. Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 33 caps
17. Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 122 caps
18. Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 8 caps
19. Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 10 caps
20. Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 37 caps
21. Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 104 caps
22. Ross Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 18 caps
23. Jimmy O’Brien (Leinster/Naas) 4 caps
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Wales name much changed team for France
Head coach Warren Gatland has named his Wales senior men’s XV for the final round Guinness Six Nations match against France this Saturday at the Stade de France in Paris (KO 2.45pm GMT live on ITV and S4C).
No 8 Taulupe Faletau will win his 100th Wales cap having made his debut against the Barbarians in June 2011 and won his 50th cap against Fiji at Rugby World Cup 2015.
Dillon Lewis is in line to make his 50th senior international appearance for Wales from the bench. George North – also in the Wales starting line-up that faced the Barbarians when Faletau made his debut – partners Nick Tompkins in the Wales midfield.
Louis Rees-Zammit makes his third start for Wales at full back. Rio Dyer and Josh Adams are selected on the wings.
Dan Biggar returns from injury at fly half. Rhys Webb, who made his first start in this year’s Championship against Italy, continues at scrum half.
There are two changes to the forward pack that started last weekend’s outing at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Alun Wyn Jones is named in the second row, while Aaron Wainwright will make his first appearance this Six Nations coming in at blind-side flanker. Jac Morgan has been ruled out with an ankle injury picked up in training.
Among the Wales replacements Bradley Roberts and Gareth Thomas join Lewis in providing the front row cover.
Dafydd Jenkins and Tommy Reffell are the other forwards in the match day 23. Leigh Halfpenny is named one of the Wales replacement backs, along with Tomos Williams and Owen Williams.
Gatland said: “Last weekend was really important for us getting a win in the Six Nations and building a bit of confidence. It was a step in the right direction but there’s still lots for us to work on.
“We’ve worked hard on a few things in terms of tidying some of the defensive lapses that we’ve made and getting those things right. We’re still working hard on our attack.
“I think France last weekend put in probably one of the best performances seen in a long, long time. They’re the number two team in the world. They bring a really physical approach to the way they play and they’ve tended to start well.
“So that’s the important thing. We’ve got to go out there and start well, make sure we’re in that arm wrestle with them and give ourselves that opportunity.
“They’re a team that kick the ball a lot, so we’ve also got to make sure that our backfield is right and we’ve got to be good in the air.”
On Faletau reaching 100 caps for Wales Gatland added: “Toby has been a fantastic servant for Welsh rugby. Even though he’s reaching 100 caps he’s still pretty quiet, but he’s incredibly well respected by the players for what he’s achieved.
“I remember in the early years he was just a constant and he became absolutely world class in terms of his performances.
“There’s a lot of things that people don’t see in terms of his ability to read the game – he’ll run support lines that people don’t see. You see that when you’re going back through the videos and there have been times where he’s been on the end of a pass and scored tries. We saw that last week, Rhys Webb makes a break and Toby scores a try.
“Getting 100 caps is a great recognition for what he’s achieved in the game. It’s fantastic for him and his family and hopefully we can go out there and give him a really good performance and something for him to remember.”
Wales senior men’s XV to play France in the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 18 March KO 2.45pm GMT. Live on ITV and S4C
15 Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby – 24 caps)
14 Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 48 caps)
13 George North (Ospreys – 112 caps)
12 Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 26 caps)
11 Rio Dyer (Dragons – 6 caps)
10 Dan Biggar (Toulon – 106 caps)
9 Rhys Webb (Ospreys – 39 caps);
1 Wyn Jones (Scarlets – 47 caps)
2 Ken Owens (Scarlets – 90 caps) CAPT
3 Tomas Francis (Ospreys – 70 caps)
4 Adam Beard (Ospreys – 45 caps)
5 Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys – 157 caps)
6 Aaron Wainwright (Dragons – 36 caps)
7 Justin Tipuric (Ospreys – 92 caps)
8 Taulupe Faletau (Cardiff Rugby – 99 caps)
16 Bradley Roberts (Dragons – 4 caps)
17 Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 20 caps)
18 Dillon Lewis (Cardiff Rugby – 49 caps)
19 Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 5 caps)
20 Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 8 caps)
21 Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 44 caps)
22 Owen Williams (Ospreys – 6 caps)
23 Leigh Halfpenny (Scarlets – 98 caps)
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