Berliner Tageblatt - All Blacks must be 'switched on' for Japan threat: Lienert-Brown

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All Blacks must be 'switched on' for Japan threat: Lienert-Brown
All Blacks must be 'switched on' for Japan threat: Lienert-Brown / Photo: © AFP

All Blacks must be 'switched on' for Japan threat: Lienert-Brown

Recalled centre Anton Lienert-Brown said Tuesday that the All Blacks will not take Japan lightly when they meet in Tokyo this weekend, insisting they were now "a feared opponent".

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New Zealand kick off their northern hemisphere tour on Saturday against 2019 World Cup quarter-finallists Japan before moving on to Europe to face Wales, Scotland and England on successive Saturdays.

The All Blacks have never lost a Test against Japan but their preparations have been disrupted by seven player withdrawals.

Lienert-Brown is back in the squad for the first time this year after missing the Rugby Championship through injury, and he said he was looking to "make a statement".

"For us, we really respect Japan, we know how far they've come in the last few years and they're a feared opponent now," said the 27-year-old, who has won 56 caps for the All Blacks.

"It's about us getting our stuff right, making sure that we're switched on the whole week and we prepare the best we can, because we know challenge ahead."

Leicester Fainga'anuku became the latest All Blacks player to leave the squad on Monday when the back returned home for family reasons.

He was replaced by Mark Telea, who trained with the squad shortly after arriving in Japan on Tuesday morning.

The Barrett brothers, Scott, Jordie and Beauden, were among six New Zealand players who did not board the plane on Saturday after their grandmother died.

They are expected to arrive in Tokyo on Thursday but will not be available for selection against Japan.

Sam Whitelock, Will Jordan and Folau Fakatava were left at home because of injury.

Utility back Damian McKenzie was one of five players brought into the squad as cover and he is looking to grab his chance with both hands.

"It's great to be called back into the squad, not in great circumstances obviously, thinking of the Barrett family back home," said McKenzie, who played a season in Japan's domestic league last year.

"It's cool to be back in the environment. If I'm given the chance this weekend then I've just got to come out and make the most of that."