Warren Gatland believes Damian McKenzie’s future lies at fullback for the Chiefs and All Blacks.
The fit-again McKenzie, who saw his 2019 season curtailed because of an unfortunate knee injury, was certainly missed by his franchise and the All Blacks last year.
According to the New Zealand Herald, the former Wales and current British & Irish Lions coach revealed to Radio Sport that while the pair have not spoken too much about McKenzie’s preference, Gatland sees his immediate future in the No 15 jersey.
‘I haven’t really had a lot of conversation with Damian about it – [fullback] is probably where we see him at the moment, and potentially where he sees himself,’ said the Chiefs head coach.
‘There’s no reason he couldn’t move back to 10 in the future and we know he can cover us at first-five. But long term there’s definitely a position higher up in the All Blacks where he can probably cement a fullback spot.
‘We know how dangerous he is bringing the ball back and in counter-attacking, how brave he is, how good he is in the air. At the moment that’s where we see him.’
Gatland added that returning veteran Aaron Cruden would likely be the preferred choice at flyhalf, the position McKenzie filled in at before his season abruptly ended last year.
The Hamilton native is hoping that the elusive McKenzie, who eased his way back into training after the devastating injury, will be available for the Chiefs’ first Vodacom Super Rugby game against the Blues on 31 January.
‘With a serious knee injury like that it takes a while to get up and running and get the joints moving again,’ added Gatland.
‘He’s up fully training now, we’ll try and give him some pre-season game time, and hopefully he’s available for that opening game against the Blues.’
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