Damian McKenzie heads for Japanese rugby after All Blacks' northern tour

By Te Ao - Māori News

He's poised to start at fullback for the All Blacks this Saturday in their second Bledisloe cup test but next year Damian McKenzie's rugby career will be very different.

The New Zealand Herald is reporting the Ngāti Tūwharetoa descendant has made the decision to move to Japan next year, signing a lucrative deal with Japanese club Suntory to replace fellow All Black Beauden Barrett.

The 26-year-old Chiefs star will be off-contract with New Zealand Rugby at the end of this year and, as the Herald understands, has signed a five-month deal to link with Suntory at the completion of the All Blacks' northern tour.

Ngāti Rangitihi's TJ Perenara is the most recent All Black to have completed a stint in Japanese rugby, after missing this year's Super Rugby season for the Hurricanes to play for the Red Hurricanes club in Japan. Since returning to Aotearoa in May, Perenara inked a new deal with NZ Rugby and the Hurricanes through to 2023.  Perenara was also named this week on the bench for the second Bledisloe Cup test against the Wallabies.