Rugby: TJ Perenara embraces challenge ahead, after All Blacks selection snub

Ousted halfback TJ Perenara still believes he can be a force for the All Blacks and is determined not to let his axing from the squad weigh him down, as he braces for his maiden campaign with the Māori All Blacks. 

Perenara was left out of Foster's 36-man squad for July's Ireland series - the first time he's been omitted since his debut in 2014. 

He may not be wearing the fern he's accustomed to, but Perenara is proud to be able to represent the Māori All Blacks and his focus is firmly on being at his best at Hamilton's FMG Stadium on Wednesday.

"It's a huge moment for me," Perenara admitted. "Not just in my career, but in life."

It's unfamiliar territory for the Hurricanes stalwart. For the last eight years, his name has been there every time an All Blacks squad has been named.

But while the 78-test veteran confessed the exclusion was disappointing, he's determined not to let it get him down.

"There's a lot of things in life that get thrown at you and how you respond to that is on you," he said. "For me, the last couple of weeks has just been another step in my journey."

The 30-year-old is a meticulous planner and that attention to detail will continue, as he tries to push his way back into the All Blacks frame.

That starts with the impending two match series against Ireland and, for Perenara, the formula is simple.

"If I continue to play good rugby and play at a high level, I give myself the best opportunity to be selected," he points out.

Perenara is full of praise for incumbents Aaron Smith and Finlay Christie, as well as the eye-catching form of Folau Fakatava, who earned the third and final spot in the All Blacks' halfback ranks.

Māori All Blacks coach Clayton McMillan is certain both Perenara and fellow halfback Brad Weber - who was also overlooked for a return to the All Blacks' fold - will soak up their new environment.

"For them, it was a no brainer," said McMillan. "Yes, they're disappointed but at the same time they see this as a proud moment for them to be able to pull on the Māori jersey. Brad's done it before, TJ's desperately wanted to."

Perenara is adamant he'll put the same amount of work and effort into the Māori All Blacks as he would any other team.

"Each night when I look in the mirror [I ask] 'have I lived my values?', 'have I done what I need to do to be the best player and person I can for this environment?'

"If I've done that, then I'll be happy."

Watch the full story above