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McKenzie has done his homework: Hansen

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 29/09/2016

All Black coach Steve Hansen talks with Damian McKenzie. © Phil Walter/Getty Images/Getty Images All Black coach Steve Hansen talks with Damian McKenzie. The All Blacks incubation period is over for Damian McKenzie, who is poised to make one of the more tantalising Test debuts.

An excitement machine at Super Rugby level this season, the Chiefs utility back finally wins promotion with a spot on the New Zealand reserves bench against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

The only squad member not to get any field time this year, the 21-year-old finally gets his chance in a much-changed side.

Coach Steve Hansen says he didn't want the youngster thrown into Test action until rough patches had been ironed out.

"I'd say he's pretty excited but the reason you have to wait is you've got to be ready when we put you out there," Hansen said.

"It's about doing the stuff off the field as well as on it and he's been a lot better with his homework."

Hansen says there is no shortage of self-belief from former age group star McKenzie, who topped numerous attacking statistics across the five months of Super Rugby action.

His parents will be on hand at what is expected to be a hostile Jose Amalfatani Stadium and are as much in the dark as anyone about when and how Hansen chooses to employ the elusive attacker.

"It will be a shock to his system as it is every guy who plays his first Test," Hansen said.

"You've got to make sure they're mentally capable of coping with it."

McKenzie's likely debut coincides with several other players whose Test careers have been forged off the reserves bench earning starts.

Halfback TJ Perenara, flanker Liam Squire and lock Patrick Tuipulotu get their chance from the outset, along with surprise centre selection Anton Lienert-Brown.

Highlanders teammates Aaron Smith and Malakai Fekitoa have missed selection altogether, with Hansen anxious to manage players who have had a glut of rugby this year.

"There's a lot of change for a team that doesn't change much but there's a lot of good reasons for why we need to do it," Hansen said.

"We're going to go round the world twice; we've got a 24-hour flight to South Africa with no recovery time and we're going to play another seven Test matches so at some point we've got to play these people and trust them."

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