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Brodie Retallick has faced unhappy times since winning the 2015 Rugby World Cup but the All Blacks lynchpin will make a timely return from injury on Sunday as New Zealand close in on the quarterfinals.

Retallick, one of the last pieces of the jigsaw for coach Steve Hansen, will slot back into the second row alongside his old partner Sam Whitelock for their 52nd Test start together — a Pool B mismatch against Namibia in Tokyo.

The expected bonus-point win — even with an experimental line-up, with Jordie Barrett making his first start at fly-half — will put the two-time defending champions on the verge of the last eight.

Such is the importance of Retallick, the 2014 World Player of the Year, that Hansen was prepared to do without him in New Zealand’s early games, knowing he would be unavailable as he recove

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