McKenzie must mix flair with caution
The impulsive ability of New Zealand’s impish fullback Damian McKenzie needs polishing but coach Steve Hansen is backing the 22-year-old to become a major player in the team.
McKenzie continues in the All Blacks starting line-up for an eighth successive game today against France but with words of warning ringing in his ears. “He has to learn how to play Test rugby and Test rugby is not like Super Rugby where you can do audacious things and get away with them,” Hansen said ahead of the match at Stade de France,.
“We don’t want to stop his flair, but he’s got to get better at the risk and reward concept of what he’s trying to do.”
Hansen said McKenzie was now challenging Jordie Barrett, out of action after shoulder surgery, for the back-up fullback role behind Ben Smith. The 31-year-old Smith has taken a six-month sabbatical from the game and not played since August when he was on the wing against Australia in the Rugby Championship clash in Dunedin while McKenzie played at fullback.
Winger Rieko Ioane has recovered from mumps, while Vaea Fifita will start at blindside flanker. Hansen has also recalled outhalf Beauden Barrett and named lock Luke Romano to start with Sam Whitelock in the scrum’s engine room.
French coach Guy Noves has recalled Mathieu Bastareaud who will make his comeback more than two years since his last appearance after the Toulon centre was named to start. The team will will be led by scrumhalf Antoine Dupont and debutant outhalf Anthony Belleau, in the absence of the injured Camille Lopez. FRANCE: Du cuing, Thomas, Do um ayrou, Ba stare aud,Huget,B elle au, Dupont; Poi rot, Gui ra do (capt ), Slim a ni, Va ha am ah ina, Ga br ill agues, Can cori et, Gourd on, Pica mo les. Replacements: May na di er, Ch au me,Kotze,J ed ra si ak,Je lon ch, S erin, Tr in h-Duc,P en aud. NEW ZEALAND: McKenzie, Na ho lo, C rot ty, Williams, Io a ne, B Barrett, Smith; Ham es, Co les, La ula la, Romano, White lock, Fifi ta, Cane, Read( ca pt ). Replacements: Taylor, Crockett, Tu’ un ga fa si, S Barrett, Todd, P erena ra, So po a ga, Lie ne rt-Brown. Referee: Angus Gardner( Australia ).