Seven years and 40 tests after his All Blacks debut, Damian McKenzie admits he's trying to reclaim his place back in the national team for this year's Rugby World Cup in France.
Named in the No.10 jersey for tomorrow’s Rugby Championship opener against Argentina, the Chiefs star heads off Richie Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett, who have dominated the first-five position over recent years.
To his bemusement, McKenzie will also take first shot at the goalkicking role, but insists his appointment to that particular job wasn't a case of him claiming the responsibility as of right.
McKenzie says they just had a bit of a yack during the week and they’ve obviously got some pretty astute goalkickers, he has got the first crack and if he is going no good, Jordie [Barrett] can take over.
Four years ago, McKenzie seemed poised to play an integral part in the All Blacks' World Cup campaign, with the dual playmaker concept designed to accommodate his ability to break a game open from first-five or fullback.
That prospect ended, when he tore knee ligaments during Super Rugby and never made the plane to Japan.
His career was interrupted again last year, when he did catch the big silver bird to the 'Land of the Rising Sun', playing for Tokyo Sungoliath in the Japan League One competition and forfeiting his All Blacks eligibility.
His form for the Chiefs this year has been compelling, with McKenzie's pinpoint goalkicking making him the competition's leading pointscorer on 191 points.
That momentum has carried him into the first All Blacks line-up of another World Cup campaign, but he's under no illusions about his claims on the jersey.
Argentina will host New Zealand at 7.10am tomorrow.
|Sat 05 Aug||Full Time||Australia||20 - 23||All Blacks|
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