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The smile is here to stay with 21-year-old rugby sensation Damian McKenzie committing to the Gallagher Chiefs for two more years. 

The tenacious young back put pen to paper last week extending his initial two-year contract to include the 2017 and 2018 Investec Super Rugby seasons.

At 1.75m and 80kgs, McKenzie’s stature belies his on-field presence. His early form in the 2016 Super Rugby competition has been exceptional, with the fullback leading the competition in tries scored, defenders beaten, metres, points and carries. McKenzie made his debut for the Gallagher Chiefs against the Blues in February 2015 and has played 25 games to date for the two-time Investec Super Rugby champions.

Damian McKenzie said the environment and quality coaches were key factors in his decision to re-sign. 

“I’m really pleased with my decision to sign on with the Chiefs for another two years. I’ve enjoyed the shift up to Hamilton and my time with the Chiefs. The team environment is one of a kind and the wider organisation has been very helpful with my transition and career so far.

“I was keen to commit to the Chiefs for longer because of the high calibre of coaching staff in Rens, Straws, KK and Barnsey. They’ve been awesome in helping develop my game. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season and my future with the Chiefs” said McKenzie.

Gallagher Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said: “We’re absolutely rapt that Damian’s committed here long-term. He’s an impressive young man - competitive and resilient with a skillset to rival anyone in the competition. He plays with a free spirit, is courageous and is a pleasure to coach.”

At just 21-years of age, Invercargill-born Damian McKenzie has enjoyed a remarkable career to date. The former Christ’s College 1st XV captain played for the New Zealand Schools Barbarians in 2012 and the New Zealand Secondary Schools in 2013 before being attracted north to join Waikato and the University of Waikato Chiefs Development programme for 2014.

That same year McKenzie starred for the New Zealand Under 20’s team at the World Rugby U20 Championship, with his stellar performances earning him the title of New Zealand Age Group Player of the Year at the 2014 Steinlager Rugby Awards.

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