All Blacks Head coach Steve Hansen has said that he’s open to Chiefs full-back Damian McKenzie making the switch to scrum-half but he’d like to see the versatile 21-year-old have a shot at number 10 first before trying to make the switch to nine.
“We would bring Damian into play halfback, he trained there this morning when we did a clarity run and he’ll get a bit of time in the opposition at halfback when we train this afternoon probably,” Hansen told TVNZ on Thursday.
With TJ Perenara set to retain the starting scrum-half role in the absence of Aaron Smith, who has been handed a one game suspension following an incident with a female in a Christchurch Airport toilet last month, Hansen needs to consider other options at nine in case anything should happen to third-choice scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow.
With Smith only suspended for one game, and with Perenara and Kerr-Barlow both fit and readily available, it’s highly unlikely that McKenzie will actually see any meaningful gametime at scrum-half for the All Blacks in the near future.
However, Hansen did say that he’d like to see McKenzie have a shot at fly-half first before he considers moving the Southland native to halfback, which is obviously first and foremost a logical progression for the Chiefs playmaker, but it also may signal that Hansen see’s McKenzie as a better 10 than a 15.
“Oh look I’d like to see him play 10 before he starts playing nine,” Hansen added.
“If he can get that part of his job right then we might think about playing him at nine. Look he’d play anywhere I think that kid, you could put him in at hooker and he’d be silly enough to play there.”
According to TVNZ, should the All Blacks lose their only two remaining halfback specialists – TJ Perenara and Tawera Kerr-Barlow – before kick-off, reserve outhalf Lima Sopoaga would start at halfback with McKenzie brought onto the bench.
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