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Report: Chiefs star Damian McKenzie 'likely' to take up contract in Japan

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Chiefs star Damian McKenzie is ‘likely’ to take up a contract in Japan after his current deal with NZR expires, according to a report by


The 26-year-old is currently in the final year of his current three-year contract, originally signed in 2018 and is currently weighing up his options post-2021.

With concerns surrounding the stability and make-up of Super Rugby for next year and beyond, a switch to the Japan Top League on a rich deal could be enticing despite nearing 100 Super caps with the Chiefs franchise.

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It is also possible McKenzie’s next NZR deal could include a sabbatical clause for a Japan stint, much like the one used by Beauden Barrett and Brodie Retallick through this World Cup cycle.

Barrett spent time at Suntory while Retallick spent two shortened seasons at Kobe Steelers following the last World Cup, where former All Blacks assistant Wayne Smith acts as Director of Rugby.

Stuff reports that NZR were unprepared to make comments at this time, with Chris Lendrum saying he had ‘nothing to offer on this one’.

Having missed the 2019 Rugby World Cup due to injury, a deal longer than one season would put his World Cup hopes for 2023 in jeopardy.


As one of New Zealand’s brightest talents of the last decade, missing the chance to play in a World Cup for the All Blacks would be a massive call for McKenzie to make.

Speaking to media at the announcement of the All Blacks squad, McKenzie indicated he was ‘coming back’ when queried about his contract situation last week.

“No, I’m coming back,” he said when asked if this was his last season with the All Blacks.

“I’ve been selected for this team, so I’ll be putting my best foot forward to do what I need to do this year and hopefully can come back next year.”


Any move to Japan would seem to be short stint based on McKenzie’s comments.


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