Damian McKenzie keen to play at 10 in Japan

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  • Damian McKenzie
    New Zealand rugby union player

New Zealand utility back Damian McKenzie has revealed that he wants to play at fl-half for Suntory Sungoliath Tokyo in Japan Rugby League One and is backing himself to be included in his country’s squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

McKenzie is comfortable at fly-half and full-back and is in Japan as a replacement for fellow All Black Beauden Barrett, who had a six-month sabbatical at Suntory Sungoliath Tokyo last season.

Keen to stake his claim

Barrett is involved in a battle for the All Blacks’ fly-half berth with Richie Mo’unga but now McKenzie also wants to stake his claim for the coveted number 10 jersey.

The former Chiefs player is preparing himself for the start of the Japan Rugby League One campaign early in January but although he would like to play at fly-half, he is also happy to turn out at full-back.

“I’d love to play stand-off (flyhalf) – I think that’s where I can be best utilised in this competition,” McKenzie told AFP.

“But I’m happy to play at full-back or wherever the team needs me. At Suntory Sungoliath we have a team-first mindset, but I’d love to play stand-off.”

The 26-year-old has had to settle for a place on the All Blacks’ replacements bench for most of 2021, with either Beauden Barrett or Mo’unga starting at fly-half and Jordie Barrett preferred at full-back.

McKenzie is aware that he will have to work hard to make New Zealand’s 2023 World Cup squad, but feels his move to Japan can give him an edge.

“I’m very determined to get back into that squad and obviously there’s a lot of competition back home in the positions I’m in,” said McKenzie, who was sidelined for the 2019 World Cup due to injury.

“I’m confident in myself. I’m coming over here to embrace Japanese rugby and embrace the Japanese culture, but to grow my game as well. I think I can do that over here and then take that back home.”

The article Damian McKenzie keen to play at 10 in Japan appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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