Manawatu's Canadian international prop Hubert Buydens returned to Palmerston North on Tuesday in a lighter frame.
He has carved 6 kilograms off his body, down from 125kg last year to 119kg when he was weighed yesterday. And his 1.91m frame is feeling the better for it, except perhaps in the scrums.
"The biggest thing I have noticed since the Turbos stuff last season is my fitness is up," he said. "I feel fitter. It's easier to get around the field."
The 32-year-old from Saskatchewan, who goes by the nicknames of either "Moose" or "Lumberjack" when he's in New Zealand, is looking good to play in his second World Cup next year.
His first for Canada was in New Zealand in 2011 and he is just back from being the starting loosehead prop against Japan and Scotland and half of the game against the United States in Sacramento.
Canada lost all three, narrowly. They lost to Japan after being up 25-9 at halftime in Vancouver and by two points to Scotland in Toronto when a penalty was changed to a red card and proved costly.
"I think I played fairly well," Buydens said. "I heard lots of good comments."
He has played in 25 tests since 2006 and missed the two World Cup qualifying wins over the United States last year when he was with the Turbos. His next internationals should be in Europe in November when Canada will probably play Russia, Samoa in France and Romania in another visit to Bucharest.
Rugby has taken him around the globe, but he would like to get to South Africa and France.
Last season he started the first two games for Manawatu, then was dropped and played only two more.
"That's the life of a professional rugby player," he said. "I feel good coming in this year and I feel they will give me a fair shake."
Buydens finds there is a contrast between ITM Cup and test rugby.
"The Turbos game is a little faster. In a test match, even against the higher nations, it is a lot more physical."
He said having a contract was valuable because Canadian Sport has cut funding for rugby, spending more on sevens, the new Olympics sport.
"That takes tight-five players out of the equation," he quipped.
Buydens played much of the club season for Te Kawau and enjoyed the experience. He found it different being in a senior leadership role alongside halfback Toby Morland, giving pointers.
The other Turbos loosehead props are Chris Eves and Nick Grogan.
- Manawatu Standard