Rugby: Chiefs first-five Damian McKenzie confirms two-year contract extension with NZ Rugby

Chiefs star Damian McKenzie has confirmed he will spend at least two more years with NZ Rugby, easing worries over the All Blacks first-five spot beyond this year's World Cup.

After spending 2022 on a Japan sabbatical, McKenzie, 28, has returned to lead his team unbeaten to the top of Super Rugby Pacific this season, emerging as arguably the outstanding individual performer so far.

With several senior international players - including incumbents Richie Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett - already signaling they will leave New Zealand next year, the mercurial utility has emerged as a clear successor to the All Blacks No.10 jersey - maybe even before the World Cup.   

Damian McKenzie in action against the Crusaders
Damian McKenzie in action against the Crusaders. Photo credit: Getty Images

His decision to stay beyond that tournament will bring a sight of relief from NZ Rugby, All Blacks coach-in-waiting Scott Robertson and Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan.

McKenzie has made his announcement on Sky Sport's Breakdown, after guiding the Chiefs to a second win over the Crusaders this season at Hamilton's FMG Stadium.

"After a great win, I'm proud to announce I've signed on with the Chiefs for another two years, staying here in New Zealand and staying put," he said. "I love this club and this region, it's home away from home for me.

"I'm really excited for the next few years and stoked I could re-sign with this great club."

Invercargill-born McKenzie has played 40 tests for the All Blacks, mainly at fullback, but missed the last World Cup through injury, when he was being developed in the "dual playmaker" role under coach Sir Steve Hansen.

"I am delighted that Damian has committed to growing his game further here in New Zealand," said current All Blacks coach Ian Foster. "He is an exciting player and his best is yet to come - great news."

McKenzie's extension follows in the footsteps of several others, including hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho and centre Rieko Ioane through to the 2027 World Cup.

"This is another key All Black signing, adding to the impressive group of players that will take us into the future," said NZ Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson. "Damian has all the qualities you could ask for in an All Black and we look forward to seeing him evolve even more in our game."