Chiefs full-back Damian McKenzie talks All Blacks, nicknames and dream party guests

How was your first experience with the All Blacks squad in June?

Awesome. It was full-on but everything I expected. I learnt loads and really enjoyed it. I’m a happy man at the moment.

Yes, you’re clearly enjoying your rugby right now…

I just try to play my normal game. I haven’t changed too many things. I’m picked for a reason so I try to stay as relaxed as possible.

What’s with the smile when you line up a kick?

It helps me relax. I put it in my routine to help me focus on kicking the ball.

Who’s the joker in the All Blacks squad?

Daggy (Israel Dagg). He keeps the boys up. He’s a funny guy and chucks banter out there. I’m terrible at jokes myself. Even if someone tells me a good joke, it rolls straight out of my head and I can’t remember it.

Israel Dagg

Funny man: Israel Dagg dives over for a try against Wales. Photo: Getty Images

What’s your nickname?

Big Jim. That comes from my dad – he likes to give nicknames to relatives. He called me Jimmy when I was younger and I think the big is because I’m not!

Do you have any phobias?

I’m claustrophobic – I don’t like tight spaces. If I was trapped in a cupboard I wouldn’t last too long.

Have team-mates done that?

No, but when they read this they might!

What are your bugbears?

I have to be careful as it’s a bit hypocritical, but people being late. I’m quite bad at it myself, but if you say you’re going to meet somewhere, turn up on time. Also, Auckland traffic. Getting stuck in that isn’t fun. I’m from Southland and I’m not used to that many people, so get impatient. It’s fine in Hamilton.

Do you have any superstitions?

Not really. I strap my right thumb and wrist as I used to have an injury there. Before a game I always clean my boots. It takes me back to when I was a kid and Dad would make us clean our boots, so we didn’t get too big for the game.

Being claustrophobic you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lift, but if you were, who’d you want with you?

A lift operator – someone who could fix it and get me out of there. Or a good-looking girl, like Margot Robbie. I think we could have a good chat.

Margot Robbie

Mad about Margot: Aussie actress Margot Robbie would make a good dinner date. Photo: Getty Images

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Flying would be cool. You’d get to places quicker and wouldn’t have to worry about traffic.

What’s the silliest thing you’ve bought?

Probably a vest I had six or seven years ago that the boys still give me stick about now.

Who would be your dream dinner party guests?

I’ve always been a fan of Roger Federer, so I’d like to have him round. There’s so many people I’d like to have dinner with! Adam Sandler and Mark Wahlberg – I’m a fan of their films. And Margot Robbie!

Any guilty pleasures?

Definitely chocolate. I don’t treat myself too much but I do love chocolate.
What would you be doing if you weren’t playing rugby? I’m from a dairy farm so I’d probably be working there or studying at uni. Something along those lines. I’m really into golf, too. I play off nine.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who put others before himself and gave a good name to rugby, on and off the field.

This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Rugby World. For the latest subscription offers, click here.