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McKenzie ruled out of opener

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Damian McKenzie ruled out of opening Super Rugby fixture

Friday night was supposed to mark Damian McKenzie’s much-awaited return to the rugby field after spending the better part of the last year on the sidelines. A training ground injury has stymied his return, however.

McKenzie, who ruptured his ACL against the Blues in April of last year and subsequently missed the World Cup, was initially named to start at fullback in Friday’s opening Super Rugby fixture at Eden Park.

The diminutive playmaker will have to wait at least one more week to make his return, however, with a tight abductor forcing him out of the clash.

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Shaun Stevenson, with 44 caps to his name, will take over in McKenzie’s absence.

McKenzie was one of four All Blacks the Chiefs had named to start in the match, with Sam Cane captaining the side from the back of the scrum, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi at halfback and Nepo Laulala packing down at tighthead prop.

Still, Atu Moli, Angus Ta’avao, Brad Weber, Aaron Cruden and Anton Lienert-Brown will all enter the fray at some point after being named on the bench.

McKenzie’s last match against the Blues marked the Chiefs’ 15th regular-season victory in a row over their northern neighbours. The Blues ended that torrid record later in the year but the Chiefs will still enter Friday’s game as favourites – even without McKenzie on board.

Chiefs: Shaun Stevenson, Sean Wainui, Quinn Tupaea, Alex Nankivell, Solomon Alaimalo, Kaleb Trask, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Sam Cane (c), Mitchell Karpik, Lachlan Boshier, Mitchell Brown, Tyler Ardron, Nepo Laulala, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Aidan Ross. Reserves: Bradley Slater, Atu Moli, Angus Ta’avao, Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Pita Gus Sowakula, Brad Weber, Aaron Cruden, Anton Lienert-Brown.

WATCH: Kotaro Matsushima’s confirmed switch from Japan to France could be a game-changer.

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Damian McKenzie ruled out of opening Super Rugby fixture
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