Highlanders flanker Liam Squire ruled out for the season

Liam Squire's injury woes have struck again.

The Highlanders confirmed on Monday that the 30-year-old would miss the rest of Super Rugby Aotearoa due to a recurring knee injury, with no timeframe given on his return to rugby.

“It is tough for Liam, he has worked hard to get back in shape to have a big season but his knee has flared up again which means we have to give him time now to rest it and try and get it right,” Highlanders coach Tony Brown said in a statement.

Squire played about 20 minutes off the bench against the Crusaders in round one and the Chiefs in round two, but he has not been seen since.

The former All Black had knee and hip surgeries last year, and signed for the Highlanders for 2021 and 2022 after cutting short a two-year deal in Japan.

“I was not planning to come back to New Zealand so early from Japan but a knee injury sent me back here for knee surgery,” Squire said in December.

“After that Covid hit here and we were locked down. During that time I was advised to [also] get my hip done after lockdown.

“It was good to get that done but the downside was that it pushed my rehab back, so I could not go back to Japan.

“After getting that hip surgery I felt like I had a bit left here in New Zealand. Staying here and playing Super Rugby is exciting. I feel refreshed again.”

Brown was confident Squire could regain full fitness but that has proved to be an optimistic assessment.

The injury will be a bitter blow for Squire, who has spoken about his desire to win back a place in the All Blacks squad.

“I have got high standards of where I want to go to coming back and that is quite exciting for me,” Squire said after he signed for the Highlanders.

“That All Blacks dream is definitely not over. It does burn in the back of my mind.”

Depending on how Squire's knee reacts to the rest, he could play in this year's Mitre 10 Cup.

Squire played strongly for Tasman in the 2019 competition but has been linked to a move to Southland this year.

The Highlanders have decided not to name a replacement yet and are relatively well off in the loose forward positions.

Assistant coach Clarke Dermody said on Monday that Japan's Kazuki Himeno was “100 per cent” in the running for a start against the Crusaders on Friday after impressing off the bench against the Hurricanes in round 5.

Squire's unavailability continues a tough run for the Highlanders’ recent recruits. Nehe Milner-Skudder needs more game time to fully recover from his long-term shoulder issues, while Fetuli Paea and Jermaine Ainsley both succumbed to ankle injuries before the season even began.

The Highlanders are currently 1-3 in Super Rugby Aotearoa, which leaves them bottom of the ladder.