Rugby: TJ Perenara grateful for second chance at All Blacks with recall into camp for Scotland clash

Given a second chance at an All Blacks career that appeared to be over, TJ Perenara is grateful for the chance to push for a black jersey again.

As coach Ian Foster opted for younger halfbacks Finlay Christie and Folau Fakatava behind evergreen Aaron Smith, Perenara and Brad Weber were overlooked, when the first All Blacks squad of 2022 was named.

At the time, Perenara responded on social media, suggesting his absence would be temporary. Fakatava's season-ending injury has given both lifelines. 

Originally named in the touring All Blacks XV, Weber was called in for last week's win over Wales, while Perenara has rejoined the team for Monday morning's (NZ time) test against Scotland at Murrayfield.

Missing out on the All Blacks has been a blessing in disguise for Perenara, 30, who captained the Māori All Blacks against Ireland earlier this year, then became a key part of the Wellington side that won both the NPC and Ranfurly Shield.

"It's been a cool year, being a part of really cool teams, nd being really successful in those teams," Perenara said. "It's been awesome [and] to be back in this environment's been really cool too. 

"I think just playing well [has been a highlight], going out there, expressing myself on the field, playing a style of footy I like to play, and being in winning environments helps as well.

"To be fair, if I wasn't called back in, I was still really enjoying the footy I was playing and the style I was playing in. I was happy with the level I was playing at.

"I still want to improve and get better, but I'm enjoying the way I'm playing at the moment."

While Perenara was able to recover from the selection setback, it left him powerless to help, as his former teammates floundered.

Perenara's response to being dropped from the All Blacks
Perenara's response to being dropped from the All Blacks. Photo credit: Instagram

Perenara could only watch historic defeats to Ireland and Argentina, as the All Blacks struggled to find form to start their season.

Now with five test wins on the bounce, Perenara is confident this current side have turned a corner, before finishing the year against Scotland and England.

"Not being able to be around the boys and not being able to have an impact on the environment was the most difficult thing," he continued.

"[I've] been in this team for a wee while now and we've come across our challenges. I've often been in the environment to help us through it.

"Whether that's on the field or through the training week, you can have an impact. You can be around the boys, you can float ideas, you can try and have an impact at training.

"Not being around the boys was the most difficult thing.

"I love where this group has gotten to, I love where we're heading to. It was hard not being there, but I'm excited about being here now."

Now back in Foster's plans, Perenara also insists he will push for a spot at next year's Rugby World Cup in France, after contributing to the victorious 2015 campaign and semi-final exit four years later.

TJ Perenara for the All Blacks XV.
TJ Perenara for the All Blacks XV. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

The chance to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a likely final time in 2023 remains a target for Perenara and every other All Blacks hopeful.

"It's something I think anyone in New Zealand rugby wants to be part of," he said. "It's a goal most rugby players in their professional career set themselves.

"To be part of a Rugby World Cup team would be something I'd be keen to get amongst."

The All Blacks squad to face Scotland will be named on Saturday morning (NZ time).