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Verrills welcomed back but Perenara still on radar

Sydney Roosters forward Angus Crichton has welcomed the return of hooker Sam Verrills for Sunday's ANZAC Day clash with St George Illawarra and urged All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara to switch codes and work alongside him.

With Queensland Origin hooker Jake Friend forced into retirement and understudy Freddy Lussick suffering a broken arm, the Roosters have been in talks with Perenara to shore up their hooking depth and he may arrive from Japanese rugby union next month.

Friend, who has begun working with the Roosters in an off-field role, is expected to help prepare Perenara for the transition to the NRL, while his friendship with Sonny Bill Williams would make the move more comfortable for the 29-year-old.

Perenara has a rugby league background and Kiwis hooker Brandon Smith revealed last weekend that the former Wellington Hurricanes captain had been asking him for advice and video footage of Penrith's Api Koroisau to study.

It is expected that Perenara would play the No.14 role for the Roosters, interchanging with Verrills at dummy half and providing coverage for the inexperienced halves pairing of Sam Walker and Drew Hutchinson.

Crichton, who was an Australian Schoolboys rugby union star before joining South Sydney as a 19-year-old in 2015, backed Perenara to be a success in the NRL.

Roosters hooker Sam Verrills.
Roosters hooker Sam Verrills. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"I've watched him play rugby and he's a class player," Crichton said. "With Jake having to hang up the boots unfortunately we are a few men down in that position of hooker so he would be great to have around the club.

"I'm a rugby fan and to have an All Black come into our team would be pretty cool.

"He will have to get used to making a fair few more tackles in rugby league than he does in rugby union but I encourage anyone who wants to make the switch across to have a crack.

"It will be cool to get Sammy back in the mix and if TJ comes along that is an added bonus. If that is where he is at I will definitely welcome him in."

Roosters and Kiwis centre Joey Manu said: "I love watching the All Blacks and he is definitely a good athlete, and has a great passing game. If he comes it will be pretty exciting".

Until then the Roosters will rely on Verrills and rookie Ben Marcshke to handle the dummy-half duties and Crichton said the return of the highly regarded 22-year-old after 10 months on the sideline recovering from a knee reconstruction was a boost for the team.

"I am very keen to have him back in the mix because he will add another dimension to our team," Crichton said.

"He brings that class around the ruck and he is one of those hookers who can create opportunities without having to do too much. He has got that natural deception that can trick markers and has got a beautiful pass so he is one of those guys you enjoy playing with."

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Friend, who announced his retirement two weeks ago after suffering a number of head knocks, was at Roosters training on Monday and is expected to work with Verrills, Marschke and Perenara, if he makes the switch.

"He will be a Rooster forever and to have him around the club in a coaching role, or in development or recruitment or whatever he is going to be doing, is crucial for us because he is such a big part of our club," Crichton said.

"He is such a big part of our team and he leaves a massive hole in our side as one of our captains and one of our leaders but he is at peace with his decision and it is obviously the right thing for him and his family.

"I am really happy that he has got his mind made up and it is all sorted out for him because I couldn't imagine what he would have been going through with all the opinions of other people and people throwing in their two cents worth and telling him what to do."

 

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