Waikato re-sign Damian McKenzie, Atu Moli, James Tucker for another two years

Damian McKenzie of Waikato makes a break during the round three ITM Cup match between Waikato and Taranaki. Photo / Getty
Damian McKenzie of Waikato makes a break during the round three ITM Cup match between Waikato and Taranaki. Photo / Getty

On the back of last week's signing announcement of Isaac Boss, Stephen Donald, Sam Christie and Willis Halaholo, Waikato have now confirmed the re-signing of three of their top young talents, alongside securing six highly promising academy graduates.

21-year-olds Damian McKenzie, Atu Moli and James Tucker have all signed with the province for another two years, meaning they will be in red, yellow and black until at least the end of 2018.

McKenzie, recently called up to the All Blacks for the first time, made his Waikato debut in 2014 and has quickly become a standout for the Mooloos over the past two seasons. He has racked up 203 points in 20 games for Waikato and, depending on his availability with All Black commitments, will again play a crucial role in 2016.

"Waikato have been great to me over the past two years and I had no hesitation in re-signing," said McKenzie. "My development owes a lot to the Waikato Rugby Union and I look forward to pulling on the jersey for many years to come."

Moli had a big year in 2015 as he forced his way into the Waikato team, making six appearances after leading the New Zealand Under 20 to the Junior World Championship title in Italy. This season he has gone on to feature prominently for the Chiefs and looks set to be a key figure in the Waikato engine room for years to come.

Tucker was another to have a breakthrough year in 2015 as he made his Waikato debut after a couple of injury-plagued seasons. His form earned him a spot in the Chiefs for 2016 and he too is poised to play an important role up front for Waikato this year and beyond.

Waikato head coach Sean Botherway said: "We are thrilled to secure Damian, Atu and James for the next couple of years. They are all fantastic young men that have come through our development system since joining us out of high school and we are starting to see their talent come to fruition."

"All three of them have plenty of top level rugby experience for their age and we are excited they have committed with us and look forward to them contributing to Waikato over the next few seasons."

Waikato have also committed to New Zealand Under 20 front-rowers Ayden Johnstone and Sosefo Kautai, recent Waikato debutants Matty Lansdown and Sam Caird, and 2015 Waikato Juniors standouts Sekope Lopeti and Jahrome Brown, with all six signing with the WRU for 2017 and 2018.

"The signing of this group is a reflection of our commitment to our development pathway. They have progressed well in our academy system and will now get the chance to further develop and learn in our environment with the view to becoming key members of the Waikato team in a few years' time," Botherway said.

With five possible Ranfurly Shield clashes on the schedule, FMG Stadium Waikato is set for one of its biggest Waikato seasons in several years.

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