Rugby-Perenara recalled to All Blacks after 'tracking well' in Japan

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(Reuters) - Experienced scrumhalf TJ Perenara has been recalled to the All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship after returning to New Zealand from a fruitful stint in Japan.

The 29-year-old, who generated headlines for considering a move to Australia's National Rugby League earlier this year, joins Aaron Smith and Brad Weber as the three scrumhalves in Ian Foster's 36-man squad.

Perenara was unavailable for selection during the recent home test wins against Tonga and Fiji due to his contract with Osaka-based Red Hurricanes.

But Foster said selectors had been impressed with the 69-test veteran's work in Japan.

"He's an experienced international nine for us," Foster told New Zealand media on Monday. "He went to Japan for a reason and we gave him a clear work-on there in terms of the speed to the ball and to make sure that part of his game was tracking well."

The All Blacks beat Fiji 60-13 in Hamilton on Saturday to sweep their two-test series and next face Australia at Eden Park on Aug. 7, the first match of their annual Bledisloe Cup series.

The All Blacks then travel to Perth for the Rugby Championship opener against Australia two weeks later, which doubles as the second Bledisloe test.

Foster has recalled loosehead props Ofa Tuungafasi and Joe Moody, and hooker Asafo Aumua, with all three front rowers recovering from injuries.

Perenara, Moody and Aumua will miss the Eden Park test and instead develop match fitness in New Zealand's provincial competition before coming into the selection frame, Foster said.

Scrumhalf Finlay Christie and young prop Ethan de Groot have been cut from the squad, while hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho, who scored two tries against Fiji on his debut off the bench on Saturday, will make way for Aumua after Eden Park.

"Ethan de Groot is unlucky to miss out ... We certainly believe there's going to be ample opportunity for him later this year," said Foster.

"We were delighted with Samisoni at the weekend, how could you not be? But at the end of the day it wasn't Asafo's fault he was injured and couldn't play."

Lock Sam Whitelock retains the captaincy, with regular skipper Sam Cane omitted as he recovers from a long-term pectoral muscle injury.

Cane told New Zealand radio on Monday he had needed a full shoulder reconstruction as part of his recovery and was unlikely to return to the domestic rugby until late September.

"Frustrating's a good word," he told SENZ.

"I’d been told I tore my pec, but when they went in and had a look there were three other things that needed tidying up."

All Blacks squad:

Forwards -- Asafo Aumua, Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody, Angus Ta’avao, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa’i, Sam Whitelock (capt), Ethan Blackadder, Shannon Frizell, Akira Ioane, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea, Hoskins Sotutu

Backs -- TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Quinn Tupaea, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie, Sevu Reece

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; editing by Richard Pullin/Peter Rutherford)

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