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‘You get time’: Damian McKenzie confident new-look All Blacks will fire

By Finn Morton
Damian McKenzie of the All Blacks warms up during the The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the Australia Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 29, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Following a sensational season with the Chiefs in Super Rugby Pacific, playmaker Damian McKenzie returned to the All Blacks’ fold ahead of The Rugby Championship and beyond.

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McKenzie, it seems, has finally completed his transition from an exciting fullback to a reliable playmaker. Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett were also selected as other options to don the No. 10 jersey.

But when the All Blacks named their team to take on Argentina in Mendoza last month, in what was their opening Test of the year, McKenzie was given the first opportunity to shine.

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Other than a shaky start – which saw world-class backrower Pablo Matera charge down a clearance inside the opening 25 seconds – McKenzie was quite brilliant against Los Pumas.

While Mo’unga was expected to return to the starting side for the All Blacks’ clash with South Africa the following weekend, many rugby fans wanted to see McKenzie play a part in the Test.

But there was no room for McKenzie.

Left out of the matchday 23 to play South Africa, and again for Bledisloe I, there seemed to be no spot for the utility with Will Jordan back in the mix.

But, ahead of the All Blacks’ final Test of the year on home soil, McKenzie has been given his chance.

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McKenzie will start at flyhalf when the All Blacks take on a wounded Wallabies outfit at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The pivot will lead a new-look side around the park in attack.

While the All Blacks confirmed a number of changes to the starting side on Thursday, McKenzie didn’t seem concerned about the perceived lack of chemistry and cohesion between combinations.

“If we’re not playing in previous weeks, you get time to build different combinations,” McKenzie told reporters on Thursday.

“There’s going to be a lot of energy, boys who are getting a crack who haven’t had much of a crack this year so far. Naturally, the excitement is going to be there.

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“For us it’s not trying to overplay our hand too much, it can be easily done when you haven’t played a lot of rugby.

“We’ve had a good week so far to build those combinations and ultimately it’s about going out there and nailing the simple things. Hopefully off that comes some good attacking rugby.”

McKenzie will link up with Blues halfback Finlay Christie in the halves, while the likes of Leicester Fainga’anuku and Will Jordan have also been named in the backline.

Along with McKenzie, the All Blacks selectors have also named fan-favourite outside back Shaun Stevenson to start on the right wing.

For the majority of this year’s Super Rugby campaign, there was no better player in the competition than Stevenson.

Stevenson was initially left out of the All Blacks’ 36-man squad for The Rugby Championship, though, but was immediately called up as injury cover for Mark Telea.

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The 26-year-old travelled with the All Blacks to Argentina and Melbourne, but a Test debut has eluded the man known as ‘Shooter’ – well, until now.

“Obviously I was stoked when I got named and then you kind of hear the rest of the team,” McKenzie added.

“To be honest, once Shooter got named I missed the bench unfortunately. I was just stoked for him.

“Obviously he’s had a great season, thoroughly deserves it. I don’t think it’s just the season, the way he’s been training throughout the last month, he really deserves his shot.

“Anytime you get named to play in an All Blacks squad is special to absolutely rapped for Shooter.”

The All Blacks take on the Wallabies at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday afternoon. It’s their final Test of the year on home soil.

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Comments

6 Comments
S
Shane 343 days ago

The abs should at including stephen perofeta as back up for 1st fives dmac was a total shocker and is not test level standard even some club rugby 1st fives play better then he does

P
Pete 343 days ago

Damian McKenzie is lucky to be there at all. He can't tackle, his territorial kicking is woeful, he runs across the field, and when the mighty AB's are on defence, he runs to the opposite side of the field a.l.a. Quade Cooper.

R
Rico 344 days ago

Wouldn’t surprise to see Dmac cut the Wallabies up just before halftime after some softening up -

A
Andrew 344 days ago

Finau at 6, LJ at 8 off the bench, ALB at 12 and Shooter at 14. Plenty of key men hes worked with..

D
DCS125 345 days ago

The squad NZ are fielding is strong.

R
Reyz 345 days ago

This team is absolute fire & the back three of powerhouse Fainga'anuku, Shooter & Air Jordan at the back with Dmac at 10 🔥⚡🔥... if Abs click it will be a massacre!

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