Damian McKenzie commits future to New Zealand Rugby, signs on until 2021

All Blacks and Chiefs first-five Damian McKenzie has put pen to paper on a new deal with New Zealand Rugby, and will remain on home soil until 2021.

First appearing for the Chiefs in 2015, McKenzie, 22, has gone on to shine for the Waikato Super Rugby side, this season moving from fullback to first-five following the departure of Aaron Cruden to Europe.

The versatile young livewire made his All Blacks debut in 2016, however didn't become a regular until last season, taking over at fullback in the absence of Ben Smith and Jordie Barrett, scoring five tries from his 12 Test matches.

Lima Sopoaga's departure leaves a free spot in the All Blacks this year. Source: 1 NEWS

In a statement, McKenzie spoke of his joy at remaining in New Zealand, and with the Chiefs.

"It's a really exciting opportunity to have signed on for three more years," he said.

"My time in the Chiefs jersey has been awesome to date and the support I've been given during my time in Chiefs country has been amazing.

The All Blacks utility back has been named at fullback to face France in Paris on Sunday. Source: 1 NEWS

"I've had an awesome opportunity to be able to sign on with New Zealand Rugby and hopefully keep achieving higher honours in the future."

Chiefs coach Colin Cooper welcomed McKenzie's signing, praising the youngster in a statement.

"I'm really excited that Damian has re-signed with the club for the next three years."
"He's a great player with great character and brings a lot of confidence and stability to the team. The contract extension shows Damian's long-term commitment to the Chiefs and I'm thrilled to be working with him."

With Aaron Cruden leaving the Chiefs, McKenzie will move from fullback to number 10. Source: 1 NEWS

Wallabies star Israel Folau wins Waratahs MVP award despite controversial year

Superstar fullback Israel Folau has won the Matthew Burke Cup, the NSW Waratahs players' players award.

The Wallabies back polled 99 votes, to finish ahead of captain and openside flanker Michael Hooper (77), backrower Michael Wells (71) and inside centre Kurtley Beale (65).

Votes were cast on a 3-2-1 basis by members of each match day squad after the Waratahs Super Rugby games.

Wells won the Waratahs best forward award and Beale took out the gong for their best back.

The NSW women's player of the year was veteran back Ash Hewson, who captained her state to the inaugural Super W title.

SYDNEY, NSW - MARCH 18: Waratahs player Israel Folau (14) looks towards the scoreboard at round 5 of the Super Rugby between Waratahs and Rebels at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on March 18, 2018. (Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire)
Waratahs player Israel Folau. Source: Photosport



Rampaging Northland forwards combine for exquisite try as Taniwha dominate Southland

Northland piled on the hurt for Southland in the Mitre 10 Cup, handing the visitors their 17th consecutive loss with the Taniwha winning 26-10 at Toll Stadium in Whangārei last night.

The home team dominated the Stags in the first spell, running in three tries to lead at the break 19-3.

The try of the match came in the 17th minute, when several Northland forwards combined down the left edge for a brilliant play.

Number eight Matt Matich made a line-break from the back of the breakdown just outside the Stag's 40 metre line, then linked up with Isileli Tu'ungafasi who bowled over Southland's halfback Jay Renton with ease after a charging run.

Northland quickly shifted the ball down the left flank where Kara Pryor threw a dummy before popping up a perfect pass to Matich who crossed over for Northland's second try of the match.

The Taniwha will now take on Hawke's Bay next on Wednesday at McLean Park in Napier.

Northland sit third on the Mitre 10 Cup Championship ladder.

Northland 26: (Matt Mattich, Sam Nock, Murray Douglas 2 tries; Jack Debreczeni 3 cons)

Southland 10: (Manaaki Selby-Rickit try; James Wilson pen, Broc Hooper con) HT: 19-3

The Taniwha defeated the Stags 26-10 in Whangārei. Source: SKY



Jamie Joseph sets Brave Blossoms quarter-final goal for 2019 RWC - 'It's a chance to create history'

With just a year to go before the 2019 Rugby World Cup kicks off, Japan coach Jamie Joseph says his side have freed themselves from their fear of failure and are fully capable of securing an historic quarter-final berth.

When Joseph took the reins from Eddie Jones in 2016, Japan's players were not ready to buy into his rugby philosophy and needed time to grasp the concepts he was trying to get across, the 48-year-old New Zealander said.

"When I came here, the Japanese players were reactive, waiting for leadership and direction," he told a recent news conference to mark the one-year countdown to the global showpiece.

"They were reluctant to challenge or be proactive, reluctant to make a mistake, reluctant to try something until they fully understood it 100 per cent."

Joseph, a former All Black who also played for Japan at the 1999 World Cup, said the team were different now.

"What I am seeing now is players who are confident, players that are proactive, players that are trying things in a game," he added.

"They are not worried about making mistakes, not worried about failure but instead just excited about having a go.

"I think this is how they are going to win."

Joseph, who also took charge of the Sunwolves Super Rugby team this season, said that if Japan can iron out some of the inconsistencies that have plagued them recently they could reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time.

"I wouldn't say that I am incredibly confident but I think we are in a very good spot a year out from the World Cup and we are starting to create a little bit of momentum," he added.

"I have explained to the players it is a chance to create history."

As hosts, Japan have been drawn in Pool A alongside Ireland, Scotland, Russia and Samoa.

When asked whether his team were prepared for the tournament, Joseph said: "We are already there really."

"Over the last two years the players understand the gameplan better and are more comfortable with myself and the coaching group," he added.

"Next year is the year we start polishing what we are doing."

Team Japan and Craig Wing of Japan celebrate victory Source: Getty


World Rugby confident Japan will deliver stellar World Cup as countdown ticks under one year

Nine years after the bold decision to take their showpiece tournament out of the sport's traditional heartlands for the first time, World Rugby are confident Japan will vindicate the gamble by delivering a top-class World Cup in 2019.

The hosts face Russia in the opening match of the tournament at Tokyo Stadium on September 20 next year - in Asia's first Rugby World Cup.

While a lack of experience among organisers led to a few road blocks along the way, World Rugby believe everything is now pretty much in hand.

"There are no major obstacles for the last 12 months," World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said in Tokyo on Wednesday ahead of the celebrations to mark the one-year countdown.

"They have organised themselves well and they are on schedule for this last year. It hasn't always been like this but now they are in a very good position."

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said Japan hosting the tournament was the culmination of a decision first made in 1997 to expand into Asia and beyond the traditional tier one nations.

"What it has done is give us an opportunity to grow the game in an area that we think has potentially huge growth," the former England captain said.

"That is the reason we are here - to leave a legacy to the game. This is vitally important."

The success of Japan 2019 has the potential to determine long-term plans for the World Cup as World Rugby look to balance a desire to spread the game into new markets with a need to be financially sustainable.

World Rugby vice chairman Agustin Pichot warned last week that the international game was under threat of financial ruin.

"World Rugby will have to have a philosophical debate going forward," explained Beaumont, who has already overseen the awarding of the rights to the 2023 World Cup to France.

"Do you always have to keep chasing the money? Because what you find is that you would only end up with a few countries being able to host it.

"The issue is that the Rugby World Cup is World Rugby's only source of income.

"We are in a very strong financial position but we redistribute all our funds back to the game so it is very important we are commercially successful.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw holds aloft the William Webb Ellis Cup after winning Rugby World Cup Final. New Zealand All Blacks v Australia Wallabies, Twickenham Stadium, London, England. Saturday 31 October 2015. Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw holds aloft the William Webb Ellis Cup after winning Rugby World Cup Final. Source: Photosport