Refreshed Liam Messam itching for ABs action
Initially reluctant, Liam Messam can now see the benefits of his month-long break.
Those include boosting his squat strength from 120 to over 150 kilograms - still not in the renowned Franks brothers' territory but a significant improvement all the same.
Told by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen he needed to ''freshen up'' after a heavy workload with the Chiefs, Messam naturally wasn't fond of the idea at first.
No-one, after all, wants to give up their spot to someone of Jerome Kaino's calibre.
''When you're first told that, it's disappointing and it was pretty tough watching the boys last week,'' Messam said.
''Like everyone, you want to be out there representing the All Blacks. In the bigger picture I had to trust their plan. The last two years I haven't really had a break.
''I'm feeling really refreshed mentally and physically. I've pushed some really good numbers in the gym which I haven't been able to do since I was a young buck back in my 20s.''
While personal best gym results indicate Messam has boosted his power in recent weeks, intangible factors ultimately have him bubbling below the surface like a shaken Coke can.
Messam can't be accused of ever taking his role for granted but time away from the test arena, and Kaino's presence, all conspire to create an intense hunger.
''It's been a while since I've got to play rugby so I'm champing at the bit to get out there. As one of the co-captains with the Chiefs the mental side of things you always put so much time and effort into a Super campaign.
"It's been a month now ... to have that time it's been really refreshing. Hopefully, that shows in my performance.''
With Kaino sidelined by an elbow injury for four to six weeks, Messam gets the chance to recapture the form which saw him take ownership of the six jersey last year.
''Hopefully, I've done that over the last couple of years. Jerome and I have different skill sets which suit this team. I don't have to go out there and prove anything. I earn respect from the boys.
''I was gutted for my mate Jerome to get injured. When he comes back that's up to the coaches. It's out of our control.''
It was an odd experience for Messam last week - watching from home and yelling at the television like many other All Blacks supporters.
After being in that helplessness spectator role, he is clearly keen to help his team-mates make amends at Eden Park tomorrow night.
''It was frustrating. It was tough to watch ... I was really nervous at the end, more nervous than I would be playing. I don't want to do it again.''