It is understandable that during the excitement of the World Cup, some players who are absent from rugby’s showpiece tournament are forgotten.
New Zealand’s Damian McKenzie is such a player.
McKenzie, who established himself as the All Blacks‘ first-choice fullback in 2018, would have surely been a part of the All Blacks squad in Japan but for a devastating ACL injury in April which ruled him out until 2020.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 2, 2019
McKenzie had spent much of the season juggling roles as a flyhalf and fullback with the Chiefs, and had started to show some good form in the 15 shirt. To make matters worse, the injury came only a few days after being selected for Steve Hansen’s 41-man foundation squad.
Since then, the elusive fullback has been chronicling his recovery on social media, and recently provided another update on Instagram. The 24-year-old shared videos of himself sprinting, which is yet more encouraging progress for All Blacks and Chiefs fans.
It has been roughly six months since McKenzie sustained the injury playing for the Chiefs in Super Rugby, which means there are still a few months ahead of him before he is once again ready action. He was expected to be out for nine months, so will likely be targeting the start of the 2020 Super Rugby season if everything goes according to plan.
McKenzie’s presence in the All Blacks squad in Japan may have only complicated matters further, as Hansen is already trying to find a way to accommodate both Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett in the squad, opting to play the latter at fullback. This means that Ben Smith either plays on the wing or is shifted to the bench, so it would have been interesting to see what would have happened had the 21-cap international been fit.
For now, however, McKenzie will be focusing on returning to the All Blacks next season, and he has yet again shown that he is edging closer to his recovery.
Missing seeing the petit dynamo at the World Cup? Have a look at the kind of plays Damian McKenzie produced against the French in 2018:
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