All Blacks great Sir John Kirwan says New Zealand Rugby should not re-sign halfback TJ Perenara when he returns from Japan.
Perenara, a 69-cap All Black and former co-captain at the Hurricanes, took up a short-term contract in the Top League last year with the Red Hurricanes but promised fans back home the Japanese sabbatical “doesn’t mean it’s the end for me” in New Zealand.
On Sky Sports’ Breakdown though, Kirwan argued perhaps it should be, with the 29-year-old’s current NZ contract ending this year.
"You can't re-sign Perenara. You cannot re-sign him," Kirwan said.
"I love the man, don't get me wrong. But who do you want to keep?”
Kirwan argued younger halfbacks such as Highlanders up-and-comer Folau Fakatava or Crusaders playmakers Mitchell Drummond and Bryn Hall are the future of the All Blacks’ No.9 jersey, given Perenara has spent much of his career as an impact player behind starter Aaron Smith.
"There's some young guys coming through and for the next World Cup, I just think [they need a shot],” Kirwan said.
“Look, I'd loved to sign him but if it was a case of signing a couple of young guys that are going to get us to the next World Cup, as good and on further, then I think he's going to be [left out].
"If you think about TJ, he's been a great servant of the game, [but] he's getting into the twilight of his career. And for me, there are guys that are starting to stack up that are going to give us another two World Cups."
Fellow commentator and former All Black Mils Muliaina argued if Perenara returned and made a case for the 2025 World Cup, he should be considered given his pedigree and experience.
“If he comes back and says, ‘I want to commit to [the NZR] instead of Japan’, because lets be clear here, Japanese money is a lot more than what he would get, so if he’s committed and comes back and he’s a lot better than those guys, then why not?”
Kirwan also had thoughts on other All Blacks in Japan, saying the likes of Beauden Barrett and Brodie Retallick should be benched by the All Blacks after they return to New Zealand later this year from their own sabbaticals.