The season-ending ACL injury to Damian McKenzie sustained last week during the Chiefs’ loss to the Blues has left the All Blacks short-handed in the first-five position with just five months left until the World Cup kicks off in Japan.
Speculation has mounted as to who will replace the first-five/fullback, with options nationwide including Otere Black, Brett Cameron, Mitch Hunt, Marty McKenzie and Josh Ioane, but there remains no clear-cut eligible candidate.
As a result, some have suggested that 50-test All Black could be in line for a shock call-up to the national side, despite being under contract with French Top 14 side Montpellier.
Since McKenzie’s untimely injury, there have been calls for the Chiefs to re-sign their ex-playmaker at the conclusion of the European club season to play at the end of the 2019 Super Rugby campaign, thus making him eligible for the World Cup.
However, speaking to Newstalk ZB, Chiefs chief executive Michael Collins almost all but ruled that out as a possibility.
“I don’t think it’s that realistic,” Collins said.
“In a perfect world, with Damian going down, that would be wonderful but what I understand is he’s contracted to his French club and that season doesn’t end until May or June. I don’t think he’ll be back playing for the Chiefs this year.”
Pro14 side Glasgow Warriors, coached by Cruden’s former Chiefs coach Dave Rennie, are also thought to be pursuing his signature, with reports suggesting the Scottish club are tabling an offer of significantly less value than that of what Cruden is currently earning at Montpellier, where he has struggled to find form since leaving New Zealand in 2017.
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