Carbo-loaded So'oialo raring to return

BY TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 17/02/2010
Rodney So'oialo
LAWRENCE SMITH/Stuff.co.nz
IN THE GYM: Rodney So'oialo will miss the first week of the Super 14 after being sent back to the gym to regain his size and strength.

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Pasta plates have piled up at the So'oialo residence in recent weeks.

The result has been twofold, with the food bill rising at a similar rate to Rodney So'oialo's bulging frame.

The Hurricanes No 8's carbo-loading diet of pasta and bread, and a rigorous month-long weights programme, saw him tip the scales at 110.5kg this week as he prepares to unleash some pent-up energy on the Super 14.

After sitting out the season opener, So'oialo is sure to feature in the matchday squad to play the Western Force at Westpac Stadium on Saturday, although it's unclear whether it will be from the reserves or in a starting role.

Whatever the case, it will be a bigger, more powerful So'oialo who runs out for his 90th Super 14 appearance.

"I'm feeling really good," the 30-year-old declared yesterday. "There had to be changes, the years of not listening [to my body] had to change.

"I've felt really good the last four weeks, working hard in the gym and off the pitch. I've focused on things I need to work on, the rehab, the prehab. It's being smarter in preparation ... getting the little things right."

So'oialo says those little things have included correcting a diet that's been too high on protein and too low on bulk-building carbohydrates.

"That's always been the case. My body's a bit different to the usual where it just eats through food. That's where I've focused on eating a lot more. The food bill's pretty much up there."

One of the toughest things for the workaholic trainer has been cutting back on his running to give his body time to bed in the 7kg of muscle he's worked so hard to put on.

"The competition's not that easy, so I've put on a lot more size and being able to run with it as well will be good," he said.

"Slowly losing weight, as you do in the season" had been a problem, he said, "so putting on enough lean meat has been tough, but it's been a challenge and I've really enjoyed it."

Though he'd never admit it, So'oialo probably didn't enjoy aspects of his extended break from playing, especially watching the Hurricanes beat the Blues from the comfort of the couch and the sight of Victor Vito in the No 8 jersey.

If he needed any reminder of the task at hand, he may have noted All Blacks coach Graham Henry having a quiet word with Vito during yesterday's training session at Rugby League Park.

"The driver is to get back to where I'm at my best, that's the main reason [for the weights]," So'oialo said.

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"The only way I can do that is focusing on what needs to be done and I've achieved that. You always want to improve on anything you do ... the four trainers have done a great job."

Now it's up to So'oialo to prove it has all been worthwhile. Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper will have to decide just how he works his veteran All Black back into the mix.

The trio that started against the Blues was Vito, Nick Crosswell and Scott Waldrom.

How they match up against the Force's all-Wallaby loose forwards, Richard Brown, David Pocock and Matt Hodgson, is sure to be a factor.

The Hurricanes team is named tomorrow.

- The Dominion Post

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