McKenzie reveals 'ultimate goal' as he looks to make Test rugby return
World Cup hopeful Damian McKenzie has revealed his “ultimate goal” for next year, as the playmaker looks to make his return to international rugby.
The Rugby World Cup is an incredibly unique celebration of the sport, as players and coaches realise their dreams of representing their countries on the biggest stage – while fans dare to dream.
Once every four years, a squad of New Zealand’s best rugby players carry the expectation and legacy of the coveted black jersey into the sports ultimate event.
It’s a unique honour, a childhood dream realised for the squad of All Blacks who have worked tirelessly for selection.
Dynamic utility back Damian McKenzie was certainly in the frame for All Blacks selection ahead of the 2019 World Cup, he was practically a sure thing, before disaster struck.
McKenzie, who has played 40 Test matches in the black jersey, was ruled out of the tournament after sustaining an ACL injury during the 2019 Super Rugby season.
But that’s sport.
The All Blacks ultimately fell short of their fourth World Cup crown – and what would’ve been their third in a row – after losing in the semi-finals against England.
In the meantime, McKenzie would’ve focused on what he could control, and he later made his return to the national side.
The Chiefs playmaker last played for the All Blacks in 2021, and was deemed ineligible for selection earlier this year after taking a sabbatical in Japan.
McKenzie is now gearing up for a Super Rugby campaign with the Chiefs, as he looks to achieve his goal of making the All Blacks’ World Cup squad.
“I’ll have a nice break and then the big year (is) next year, obviously (I) missed out last time with the World Cup due to injury,” McKenzie told SENZ Breakfast.
“Try and have a good season with the Chiefs, obviously we’ve got a pretty good outfit there next year so (we will) rip into that and obviously the ultimate goal would be to make the World Cup squad.
“So a little bit of water to go under the bridge first but that’s the ultimate goal. It’s going to be a fun year.
“Looking forward to being back in New Zealand and playing Super Rugby so can’t wait.”
While McKenzie wasn’t part of the All Blacks’ undefeated end-of-season tour, the 27-year-old was able to line up for both the All Blacks XV and Barbarians.
Alongside possible World Cup bolter Shaun Stevenson, McKenzie was one of the standout performers for the New Zealanders against Ireland A in Dublin.
“It was the first time they’ve run it and probably seeing a few guys in that team who they’re looking to obviously jump up to the next team in the near future,” he added.
“It was a great group of lads, good coaches as well, and that Ireland A game was really good and then the next week against the Baa Baas – obviously when you’re playing a Barbarians side they don’t have much to lose.
“It was a great concept and we had a lot of fun while we were away and a good group of lads.
“The Baa Baas one was good fun, playing against that team is pretty special regardless of the result.”
McKenzie scored a late try for the All Blacks XV during their dominant win over Ireland A, and also performed well in a loss to the Barbarians the following week.
But his Barbarian opponents soon became his new teammates, as the 27-year-old was named to don the traditional black and white jersey in a match against Bath.
Three years on from the heartbreak of missing out on a World Cup, and as he continues to work towards that dream, McKenzie scored an 81st minute drop goal in the Baa Baas’ thrilling win.
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