Opportunity knocks for returning All Blacks

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Lienert-Brown missed much of New Zealand's season due to injury, while McKenzie couldn't break back into the side after a season playing in Japan.

But, with players unavailable for bereavement and illness reasons, on the eve of their departure from New Zealand, opportunities have opened up for players to step into the vacancies.

McKenzie said he was looking forward, if selected, to matching up against teammates from his time in Japan last summer.

Anton Lienert-Brown said the All Blacks respected Japan and how far they had come in their game in the last few years.

"They're a feared opponent now and it's about us getting our stuff right, making sure we're switched on for the whole week and we prepare as best we can. We know the challenge ahead."

The game was important ahead of the British Tests, and he and McKenzie were back in the side for the first time this year.

"It's a massive privilege to be back here, and we'll play the role that we can play, and we [the All Blacks] want to make a statement this weekend.

McKenzie added that the Japanese team liked to use the ball and play a fast game, and the All Blacks would prepare to deal with every possible situation.

"They've got some great backs and some elusive forwards as well, so that's the experience over here - they always want to run and play an attacking brand of rugby.

"We're going to have to make sure we're on defensively, and if we get a chance on attack, to make the most of those opportunities.

"We know Japan will bring everything they can. It doesn't matter who the All Blacks play, every team steps up. They play a great brand of rugby, it's quick, it's fast, and they've got nothing to lose. We've got to make sure we prepare well. It's an afternoon game, which is great.

"It's going to be an exciting challenge."

McKenzie said while it was nice to be called back into the squad, it wasn't under the best circumstances, and he was thinking of the Barrett family back in New Zealand.

"But it is cool to be back in this environment, and, if I am given a chance this weekend, I guess I've got to come out and make the most of that. I'm learning everything I can and enjoying being back. It is special being able to come back to a place I enjoyed at the start of the year."

He said that during his stint in Japan, he played some of the quickest rugby of his career and returning to play for Waikato in the Bunnings Cup had been a good transition. New Zealand teams also liked to play at fast speed, but it was more physical in the contact area.


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