McKenzie set for Chiefs' super rugby return

By James Perry

The Tuwharetoa excitement machine Damian McKenzie is set to return to the Chiefs line-up after injury ruled him out of the season opener.

A tender ankle prevented McKenzie from being named in Colin Cooper's first team of the year.  He's now recovered and ready to slot straight back into the team, although neither he nor Cooper were prepared to say where in the backline he'd be.

McKenzie started last season as first five for the Chiefs, and Cooper still sees him as a 10.  However, he finished the year wearing the All Blacks fullback jumper.

Chiefs fullback Shaun Stevenson took a knock last week and Cooper will decide tomorrow on his fitness. 

Cooper, however, is flush with options.  Sevens recruit Etene Nanai-Seturo scored two tries on debut on the wing but is equally capable of playing fullback. 

"We'll have to make those decisions, particularly with Etene playing the way he did, we'll have to take that into calculation," Cooper says. 

Should Cooper feel the need to play McKenzie at the back, he will have the services of former Melbourne Rebel player Jack Debriczeni and veteran Stephen Donald to run the cutter as well as converted midfielder Orbyn Leger, who impressed Cooper in his first appearance in the flyhalf position.

Wherever he is selected, McKenzie is keen to get back on the field, having not played since turning out for the All Blacks in Rome in November last year. 

"I guess for me it's looking forward to what we can bring out to the field this week for the Brumbies," he says, "It wasn't that fun watching from the stands to be honest."

Cooper is wanting his players to be better across the whole game this week than they were last week.  He says they suffered from a lack of leadership at times and ultimately that was the difference against the men from the deep south. 

"We made a lot of mistakes at the start," Cooper says, "And we toughed it out and we kept them out and we had a pretty good middle, but at the end weren't good enough."