Far from being a distraction, Adam Thomson reckons his convoluted contract negotiations have rejuvenated his passion for rugby.
Most would assume his uncertain future and the possibility of a swansong All Blacks' tour would cloud his focus, but Thomson revealed it had given him a refreshed mindset from the usual grind, after being physically and mentally drained by the end of the Highlanders' campaign.
"In the past it's been the same old system. You play your All Black rugby, then you go home and have a bit of a break, then turn up to Super Rugby," he said. "For me now the new options are exciting.
"I love being an All Black. It's still a massive drive. There's nothing greater in world rugby. I certainly don't see this as a winding down tour at all."
The 28-test flanker is thought to have signed with a wealthy Japanese club, but he hasn't ruled out sneaking in the back door of the Highlanders' or Blues' squads.
Players making belated starts to Super Rugby are becoming more common with Ma'a Nonu, Tony Woodcock, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw among those to have taken up the option, and Thomson could yet follow suit.
"There are wider training groups. That leaves options for not playing a full season," Thomson said of returning. "A lot of the senior guys now are having a break and just play the end.
"I could go away and call it quits. I could go away for a short period and give it another crack, or just keep going and maybe work out a sabbatical situation. I've got plenty of options.
"There are a lot of things that need to be calculated. New Zealand is not closed off."
It's been five months since Thomson had a decent crack in the All Blacks - his last start coming in the agonising victory over Ireland in Christchurch.
With loud chatter that No 8 Kieran Read will miss Monday's test against Scotland in Edinburgh in order to take over the captaincy reins in Rome next week, coach Steve Hansen is likely to have given his loose-forward mix plenty of thought.
Victor Vito is the strongest contender at the back of the scrum and, under that possible scenario, Thomson would be fighting with Liam Messam for the blindside flanker duties.
In some respects, Thomson has been a victim of his versatility, although some would argue he is yet to leave his imprint on the international stage.
The 30-year-old is clearly determined to grab a rare chance.
"I've got a real hunger to go out there and play at this level again. I'm certainly looking forward to the opportunity," he said of playing the Scots.
"I've always lived in the now with the All Blacks. I've always said to myself, every time I pull on the jersey, that it could be my last. I'll enjoy the moment and give it everything.
"It's never a given you'll get another shot at it."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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