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All Blacks full-back Damian McKenzie has revealed how Beauden Barrett helped convince him to sign for Suntory Sungoliath in Japan.
Barrett took his sabbatical at Suntory, helping them to the final of the Top League where they succumbed to Panasonic Wild Knights.
McKenzie has signed for the same side, replacing the two-time World Player of the Year as their main playmaker, and admits that the positive words from his New Zealand team-mate made it an “easy decision”.
Great players and management
“I had a lot of conversations with Beaudy about the club and he had nothing but good things to say about the Sungoliath team. They’ve got some great players, some great management,” he told reporters in Japan.
“It was a really cool club and a cool experience he had over here, and he encouraged me to try to come over and play here, and he said the way the rugby’s played over in Japan, it’ll suit the way I play, so he was very helpful with me making my decision to come over to Japan.
“He had great things to say about the club, so it was an easy decision once I got the opportunity to come over.”
McKenzie is one of the smaller players in international rugby but has adapted well to the physical challenges in the game.
The playmaker is, however, looking forward to the free-flowing and quicker Japanese style of play.
“It’s not much of a secret. I find it more of a challenge than anything, being smaller than everyone else. I find it a challenge to step up and try and not look out of place in those big games,” he said.
“For me, I’ve got to play a different style of rugby which allows me to evade contact or those big, physical collisions, so I work on that all the time.
“Obviously in Japan, the rugby’s very fast over here, so I think it’s a game style that will suit the way I play.”
McKenzie also has big ambitions while in Japan and wants to go one better than Barrett by claiming the title.
“I watched a lot of their games last year with Beaudy obviously playing for the team, and I think, like I said, the rugby’s played over here, it’s quick, it’s how I like to play, so it wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when I was going to come over to Japan,” McKenzie said.
“I thought this year, this season, was a great time for me to come over and experience the Japanese rugby, the Japanese culture, so it’s a place I really enjoy coming to and, so far, I’ve had a great time and I’m sure there’ll be some great memories.
“Obviously the goal for the year is to win the new League One championship, so we’ll be striving for that.”
The article ‘Easy decision to make Japan move’ – Damian McKenzie appeared first on Planetrugby.com.