Damien McKenzie

Chiefs playmakers challenged to step up with Damian McKenzie absent

The All Blacks playmaker has been the spark lighting up the Chiefs' attack, but he will spend the first half of next year in Japanese rugby with Tokyo Sungoliath.

The 26-year-old is almost irreplaceable after returning to top form last season as the Chiefs made the Super Rugby Aotearoa final in Clayton McMillan's first year as coach.

Chiefs confirm departure of All Blacks fullback Damian McKenzie

  McKenzie, whose contract with New Zealand Rugby is due to finish at the end of the year, played 95 times for the Chiefs and is reportedly set for a lucrative move to Japan.

"All I know is Damian is not going to be with us, at the moment that's all I can sort of comment on," the Chiefs chief executive Michael Collins told Stuff.

"I think Damian McKenzie's probably irreplaceable. He's one of the Chiefs' favourite sons, done a great job for us over many years."

The Chiefs on Tuesday welcomed the arrival of Māori All Blacks first-five Josh Ioane from the Highlanders.

Damian McKenzie suspended from Super Rugby

The SANZAAR Foul Play Review Committee has ruled McKenzie out for three weeks following his red card for a dangerous tackle on Reds halfback Tate McDermott in the 22nd minute of the Chiefs' 40-34 to the Reds in Townsville on Saturday night.

Any incident of foul play involving contact with the head starts with a potential six week suspension.

McKenzie's guilty plea and judicial record saw the time on the sidelines reduced to three weeks by the committee of Adam Casselden, Mike Mika and Stefan Terblanche.

McKenzie takes over at No 10 as Chiefs prepare for first Western Force encounter in over four years

Aidan Ross, Lachlan Boshier, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown, Shaun Stevenson and Liam Messam were on hand for the narrow 16-7 win and will all feature this weekend.

Right wing Stevenson will be the only one of the sextet to wear the same jersey as he did on that evening, however.

Prop Ross and openside flanker Boshier were both on the bench in the victory while Lienert-Brown has shifted out one spot from second five to outside centre.