Cousin Robinson clues up new Chiefs recruit

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 05:00 24/06/2014
Damian McKenzie
CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax NZ
BIG FUTURE: Young playmaker Damian McKenzie has signed a three-year contract with the Chiefs franchise.

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Teenager Damian McKenzie has had plenty of good advice from the player he has replaced at the Chiefs - cousin Robbie Robinson.

McKenzie, 19, has just come off an impressive IRB Junior World Championship campaign with the New Zealand Under-20 team.

While he played mostly at fullback, he is also a highly accomplished first five-eighth where he has already played several games for his University club this year after being recruited by Waikato.

Robinson was invalided out of the Chiefs some time ago with a serious hip injury but the process of getting him officially replaced via the New Zealand Rugby Union takes time and McKenzie only joined his new team-mates yesterday.

"I'm actually first cousins with Robbie so I catch up with him quite a lot and he's told me what it is like," McKenzie said.

"It's good to be able to get a crack at it and a chance in here replacing Robbie because he's a good footballer."

McKenzie, 19, said he felt privileged to get the opportunity with the Chiefs at such a young age and train alongside some good players.

However, the environment is not new to him as he has previously been brought into training at different times by the Chiefs this season.

"I was lucky enough to have a couple of weeks with the Chiefs prior to the 20s and you learn a lot here from the boys, who are really knowledgeable, and from a coaching staff of high quality."

McKenzie loved his time with the New Zealand Under-20s, where he got a feel of international rugby.

"I really enjoyed it. I had a lot of good team-mates and made a lot of new friends there so it was awesome."

Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said McKenzie would not be considered for selection this week, but playing opportunities at either 10 or 15 were only a few injuries away.

"He was quite outstanding for the 20s, he's spent a lot of time in this environment, understands what we're trying to do and has played for our development side so it's easy for him to slot in," Rennie said.

"Whether he gets an opportunity or not time will tell and I guess it depends how we go this week and how we go from an injury point of view."

McKenzie is content to bide his time at the Chefs and knows he will get chances in the No 10 jersey for Waikato in this year's national provincial premiership.

"I'm happy enough just being in the environment here. It's awesome just to train with the boys and a real privilege so I'll just see where it takes me from here," he said.

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- Fairfax Media

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