Bending the rules for All Blacks
SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: Damian McKenzie is set to follow in the footsteps of teammate Brodie Retallick to become the second All Black to be exempt from New Zealand’s resting policy.
Retallick was given the green light by New Zealand Rugby officials last Wednesday to play six games in a row for the Chiefs, rather than the five that the rest of his national teammates have been restricted to for the Super Rugby season.
Now McKenzie has been granted the same privilege after featuring in the franchise’s opening five fixtures, where they are yet to taste victory in what’s been their worst start to a campaign in more than a decade.
Fresh from their 23-all draw with the Hurricanes this past Friday, the Chiefs head to South Africa next week as they prepare to face the Bulls in Pretoria, which will be Retallick’s sixth appearance on the trot.
They then head to Argentina to play the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, a match of which McKenzie has been given permission to feature in.
The All Blacks have implemented a resting policy for players in Super Rugby this season in an attempt to preserve their frontline players for this year’s World Cup in Japan.
The policy requires All Blacks to miss at least two matches this year, excluding byes, and are not permitted to play more than five matches consecutively – except for McKenzie and Retallick.
“From what I know, yep, so I’ll just do what I’m told and keep playing,” McKenzie told Stuff of his upcoming playing commitments.
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As for Retallick, the Chiefs had to negotiate terms with NZR to allow the veteran lock to play six consecutive matches.
In exchange for allowing the 27-year-old to play his sixth straight game against the Bulls next week, the Chiefs will send him home instead of allowing him to travel to South America, thus reducing his travel and time on the road.
McKenzie said he was unsure how the extended sequence of matches would affect the rest of his campaign.
“To be honest, I’m not sure yet, I haven’t really thought about it,” he said. “So I’ll just do what I’m told, probably. But we’ll have to see what happens.”
McKenzie featured at fullback for the first time in his side’s draw on Friday night, after starting at first-five in his first three outings of the year.
He made a significant impact in what proved to be the Chiefs’ best performance of the season, despite not being able to secure their maiden victory.
“I guess playing a lot of 10 the last few weeks, as a 15 you know what your 10 wants, so it was nice to be able to go out there and help [brother] Marty [McKenzie] out in his role,” he said.
“I guess [the job was about] just playing my game, and just providing another game driver for Marty, and then just helping on the outsides with our defence, and just try to find a bit of voice, and a bit more freedom to have a crack and play some footy, so it was enjoyable to have a bit more space.”
Sources: Stuff & RugbyPass