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Expected to be a key part of the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup plans, the 24-year-old's hope of World Cup glory was torn from his grasp early in the Super Rugby season.
McKenzie went down with a non-contact injury during the Chiefs' round eight match against the Blues in April. It was later announced he had ruptured his ACL and would face a recovery period of as long as nine months.
Speaking to Mark Stafford on the Staf Chat podcast, McKenzie revealed he felt lost in the immediate aftermath of the injury.
"It's not fun, but it's all part of it. It's just the timing of the year – it could be any other year, but it had to be the World Cup year," McKenzie said.
"The first few weeks I was a little bit lost. It felt weird not going to training on Monday, or playing in the weekend, but I guess age is on my side.
"If I was run down and on my last legs I'd maybe try to rush it or push it and find a way where I could get back quicker, but it's not something you want to rush and be an ongoing issue through the rest of your career. You look at it where, yeah it sucks but there are people in worse positions than I am."
Being the first time he had suffered a serious injury during his career, it took some time for McKenzie to adjust. Speaking about the injury, McKenzie voiced his frustration at how it happened.
"The way I did it, I don't like looking back on it, to be honest; I've been in worse positions than that. I was just running, I didn't even touch anyone, and it just went," he recalled.
"You're gutted for the timing because it's such a big year … the first few weeks were pretty tough just watching and not being able to do much, but since I've had my surgery and gone into my rehab and stuff it's kind of put in a different perspective what it's like to be injured."
With McKenzie ruled out of the All Blacks picture for the rest of the year, Highlanders first five-eighth Josh Ioane was named in the first squad of the year as the third No 10 as one of four debutants, alongside Crusaders duo Braydon Ennor and Sevu Reece, and Chiefs flanker Luke Jacobson.
Settling into his rehabilitation, McKenzie has ruled out a return during the Mitre 10 Cup season to give himself as much time as possible to get to full health for the 2020 Super Rugby season.
After spending the majority of his time at first five-eighth over the past two seasons, McKenzie said when he returned next season, he would be looking to move away from his permanent role in the No 10 jersey.
"I've come to the point where I enjoy 15 a lot more," he admitted. "Ten's good fun but you're limited especially around attacking with a bit more freedom and space to 15. That's something I just like doing – running around like a headless chook trying to find some space.
"I'm pretty keen, for next year, now to nail a spot at 15 and get some good game time there then, if I have to, play 10. I've come to the conclusion where it's more 15-10 than 10-15."
- Christopher Reive