TJ Perenara has always been the No. 10 All Blacks reserve at a World Cup tournament. Before the pool match against Georgia in Cardiff in 2015, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had made a surprise. He announced that the Perenara half-back was the replacement for Dan Carter’s bench, the fifth to the eighth.
Colin Slade and Beauden Barrett were upset, recovering from a sore hamstring and whiplash. But there was no reason to think they would need to be sent back to New Zealand. Rugby fans are waiting for thrilling performances in RWC. Now you can book Rugby World Cup Tickets to support your favourite players.
Hansen knew of the interest of cutting your sheet of a team of 31 players at a Rugby World Cup.
Rather than risk aggravating Slade and Barrett’s injuries, he told Perenara that he was going to be employed as an emergency player and kicker for the week ahead. Experienced Aaron Smith started at the half-back position, with Tawera Kerr-Barlow on the cover.
It was not like the coaches of the All Blacks had been blinded before revealing their hand in Cardiff. They had done their homework before the tournament. Before leaving for England, Perenara qualified for the first five places in the Auckland team match.
He had already played at No. 10 when he attended Mana College in Porirua, and Hansen noted that he had accumulated a few minutes here for the New Zealand high school team.
It appeared that Perenara had never left the boat while the All Blacks won a 43-10 victory. But it’s always good to keep your insurance policy up-to-date, especially at a World Cup.
The All Blacks selectors will not have forgotten it. After news of a serious knee injury inflicted on Damian McKenzie removed a third-string playmaker to cover Richie Mo’unga and Barrett.
Fox has already hinted that they have not ruled out the option of picking only two of the top five among their 31-man squad to go to the tournament in Japan. After the first group match against South Africa in Yokohama, the All Blacks meet Canada in Oita, Namibia in Tokyo and Italy in Toyota.
While making sure not to disrespect Canada and Namibia for obvious reasons, the All Blacks will also need to be aware of the need to keep the players at their fingertips, without exposing them to unnecessary risks.
If Barrett and Mo’unga are the only two specialists in the first five games, the coaches could have more freedom to strengthen their midfield or back three.
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