Rugby World Cup: Damian McKenzie not out to prove point against Argentina after bench snub in win over Ireland

While many players at this year's Rugby World Cup wouldn't be content with a role as an impact player off the bench, All Blacks utility Damian McKenzie feels no resentment towards his duties as a substitute for coach Ian Foster's side.  

In 2019, McKenzie's World Cup dreams were shattered by a knee injury in Super Rugby, which saw him miss the tournament in Japan altogether.

Four years on, his versatility has seen him find a place in the All Blacks first-choice side as a utility, providing cover for both Richie Mo'unga at first-five and Beauden Barrett at fullback.

Damian McKenzie against Uruguay.
Damian McKenzie against Uruguay. Photo credit: Getty Images

So far, McKenzie's two tournament starts this year have come at both No.10 against Namibia and No.15 against Uruguay, albeit in heavily rotated sides, before taking a backseat to the first-choice XV.  

Last weekend, as the All Blacks stunned world No.1 Ireland in the quarter-finals, he was one of two players left on the bench, spending the entire 80 minutes on the pine, as his teammates closed out one of New Zealand's all-time great wins.

This week, McKenzie, 28, has been named to do the same again in the semi-final against Argentina at Paris, but rather than feel scorned by his non-role against the Irish, he doesn't feel the need to make up for any lost time, if and when he gets on the field.  

"My role on the bench is to come on and make an impact where I can," he said. "I know what I'm capable of doing there.

"It's definitely not about coming on to prove a point or make up for lost time. It's about coming on and nailing my role in the team.

"Usually, that's to try and speed the game up, or be coolheaded when I can be.

"My role as a bench player is to come on, do my job for the team - not to do anything special. I'm definitely not getting out there to try to prove a point whatsoever."

Helping the All Blacks prepare to face Los Pumas this week has been the presence of one of New Zealand's all-time greats to training - former first-five Dan Carter, who hit heights few in the world game could replicate, even to this day.

In 112 tests, Carter was a vital cog in the 2015 World Cup-winning side, capturing the IRB - now World Rugby - Player of the Year award three times in 2005, 2012 and 2015.

That sort of experience has been more than welcome in the All Blacks camp this year, as Foster makes the most of some of New Zealand's greatest players teaching the current generation.

"We've had them in throughout the year," McKenzie explained. "The big thing is just their presence throughout the environment.

"Especially with DC, he's helped us a lot, us kickers, throughout the year.

"Obviously, they've got a lot of experience and they're legends of the All Blacks jersey. Just to have them in and about the environment is great."

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