16 Apr 2019

Rugby World Cup: DMac's out, why not bring back DC?

7:21 pm on 16 April 2019

One of the biggest cliches in rugby at least has the largest amount of truth to it.

Whenever someone goes down hurt and requires the degree of medical attention that means they have to leave the field, it's a safe bet that the next thing you'll hear out of the commentator's mouth is 'you never like to see this'.

Damian McKenzie leaves the field.
Chiefs v Blues, Super Rugby, FMG Waikato Stadium.

Damian McKenzie has been diagnosed with a tear of the ACL - a key ligament in the knee. Photo: Photosport

We could hear it through the walls of Waikato Stadium just after half-time on Saturday night, and indeed we didn't like to see what was in front of us.

On the deck, just on the Blues' side of halfway, was Damian McKenzie, on his back, staring at the sky.

He'd done something terrible to one of his legs, and before the trainers even got to him, it was obvious that he wasn't going to play any further part in the game.

Around an hour later and Chiefs' coach Colin Cooper, although obviously quite pleased with his side's 33-29 win, couldn't hide the worry from his face when asked about McKenzie's condition. It was his knee, and he'll need a scan, he said.

The scan revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament, which is about as bad as you can get in McKenzie's line of work.

It means that he'll miss the rest of the year, ruling him out of the All Black season and the World Cup. At 23, it's his first serious injury setback.

It is, however, symptomatic of the disposable nature of pro rugby.

McKenzie's scan had barely been completed before attention turned to just who will fill the spot of the third choice All Black first five.

After all, the run of hurt number 10's in the lead up to the 2011 World Cup final has gone down as an important part of All Black lore, and it's not that long ago to surmise that heading down the depth chart is a very real possibility come October and November in Japan.

It's important to feel for McKenzie right now.

The way he's been playing for the Chiefs, there's every chance he was going to be retained in the starting in the fullback spot when the All Blacks resume in July.

Instead, he faces an operation, months of recovery and then a true test of character to get back to the form that's seen him become one of those players who immediately grabs your attention whenever he gets the ball.

He's also part of the appallingly long list of injured players that the Chiefs have had on their books in the past few seasons, so at least he's in good company there.

McKenzie may well be the first in a string of casualties in the lead up to the World Cup.

It now hammers home just why Steve Hansen wanted to cap as many All Blacks as he possibly could last year.

Even still, the player who will ultimately replace him may well not be among the many that were used.

Remember Brett Cameron? On paper, he's the next cab off the rank - except he's only started one Super Rugby game this year and it was the only one the Crusaders have lost.

Then there's Stephen Perofeta, the man who was supposed to be in Cameron's spot on last year's tour to Japan, only to get injured.

And then there's Otere Black, the man who has come back and reclaimed the spot Perofeta had last year at the Blues.

Which would all be fine, if a little boring choices given that the amount of game time they'd get would be pretty minimal.

Ma'a Nonu heads for the try line against the NSW Waratahs.

Ma'a Nonu was not selected in an extended All Blacks squad. Photo: Photosport

But there's one man who starred in a World Cup final that definitely would create some headlines if Steve Hansen picked him, and no, I'm not talking about Stephen Donald.

Most people seem sold on a 37-year-old Ma'a Nonu being able to make it back into the All Blacks, so why not Dan Carter?

He could be signed on a short term deal to Canterbury (or whoever, it doesn't really matter), then whisked straight back into an environment where the other players will look to him for guidance.

It would add another feelgood asterisk to the All Black campaign, and allow Carter to double down on his fairytale finish back in 2015 at Twickenham.

Likelihood? Pretty minimal. But you could do an awful lot worse than the world's highest test points scorer, so if he's keen, let's give him a run.

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