Rugby: All Blacks door not shut on Damian McKenzie despite missing northern tour squad, says Ian Foster

Even after being overlooked for the All Blacks' main touring squad to head to the northern hemisphere, coach Ian Foster isists utility playmaker Damian McKenzie is still in his plans.

After a season in Japan with Tokyo Sungoliath, 27-year-old McKenzie didn't feature for the All Blacks in their June series against Ireland, nor the Rugby Championship due to selection eligibility rules.

But during season for Waikato in the National Provincial Championship, McKenzie didn't do enough to earn selection to the 35-man squad to head to Japan and Europe, with Stephen Perofeta given the nod in the utility role supplementing Richie Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett.

Damian McKenzie for Waikato.
Damian McKenzie for Waikato. Photo credit: Image - Getty Images

However in a lifeline of sorts, McKenzie has been listed as a first-five for the secondary All Blacks XV side - who will face Ireland 'A' and the Barbarians - on their own northern tour, as a means of giving players gametime in the race for future selection.

According to Foster, the door on McKenzie is by no means shut, with clear instructions given to the mercurial playmaker on how to win his spot back.

"Just continue on how he's gone really," said Foster. "He's been playing at 10, playing at 15.

"He's made some adjustments since he's come back. We rate Damian really highly.

"This is a great chance for him to go up north, and help guide that All Blacks [XV] team around."

Foster also outlined the benefit of simultaneous tours for the All Blacks and All Blacks XV, allowing players to develop at international level.

And with the Rugby World Cup now less than a year away, players will be grateful for as many chances to impress before the final 31 players are selected to head to France in the attempt to win the Webb Ellis Cup for a record fourth time.

"When you look at test matches, they're called test matches for a reason - they're tough," Foster continued. "The goal is to grow our team performance.

"We're making all sorts of assessments on players, how they're training, the energy levels, and the opportunities they need to have.

"It's not possible to please every individual and give them everything they want. But we certainly know that we want to give players as many opportunities as we can in order for them to grow.

"Clearly this test series, along with the 'B' team we've got going up, gives us a good opportunity to spread our base a little bit."

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