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McKenzie puts All Blacks aside for Waikato

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 19/08/2016

Waikato first-five Damian McKenzie says the All Blacks couldn't be further from his mind as he prepares to take on the Tasman Makos in the Mitre 10 Cup opener on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Chiefs rookie trained with the All Blacks last week but was overlooked for the final Rugby Championship squad.

Despite this, Mooloos coach Sean Botherway had no issues rushing McKenzie into his starting line-up and was unconcerned by his limited time with the squad.

McKenzie, who can play first-five or fullback, was keen to repay the favour.

"I'm pretty lucky to get a chance at No.10 and try and make the most of that, and do what's best for the team this weekend," McKenzie said.

He knows his side will be up against it in Blenheim, where they'll tussle with a Makos outfit that fell in the semi-finals last year to eventual runners-up Auckland.

"Tasman are a classy side and they will be a big challenge for us, so we have nothing to lose," McKenzie said.

"It'd be a good start to the season if we could stamp our mark on this competition with a win."

He's also looking forward to learning more from Mooloos veterans Isaac Boss and Stephen Donald.

"It's just great having that experience and guidance, especially for us young fellas in the team," McKenzie said.

All Blacks selectors pulled McKenzie aside after his Rugby Championship snub and gave the rising star a few pointers to improve his game.

McKenzie said he'd do all he could to heed their advice and earn a spot on the All Blacks' European tour in November.

"Just little things around my catch and pass," he said.

"Also, playing first-five, my ability to control a game and drive a team around the park.

"Hopefully I can work on those things the best I can."

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