Tamati Ellison's long wait is almost over
No wonder Tamati Ellison is itching to stamp his mark tomorrow.
It's nearly three years to the day since he last started for the All Blacks.
His debut against Italy in Milan must seem like an eternity ago.
He was certainly a different person then. And there's little argument he's grown as a player since.
In that time he's uprooted his family from Wellington to Japan, only to be enticed back to New Zealand by former coach Jamie Joseph, to discover an unlikely home in the deep south of Dunedin with the Highlanders.
Sometimes what happens off the field can be the making of rugby players.
Close to his heart, four-year-old son Vini has come of age, and he's been joined by baby sister Tuura, who turns one next week.
Tuura may wake early tomorrow morning, but neither child will yet appreciate, or view live, their father's long-awaited second chance in the black jersey.
But if Ellison can nail his fourth test at Murrayfield, they may get to see the best of dad's career. One suspects that is still to come.
"Hopefully they give my wife a chance to get some sleep and they can watch it on Sky," Ellison said of his young family.
There is little doubt the 29-year-old from Porirua deserves his crack at second five-eighth, alongside Highlanders team-mate Ben Smith.
Ellison has never truly cemented a position, but he has proven his worth in the midfield in the crunch matches this year.
Japan gave him a new lease on life and an understanding of how good life was in New Zealand.
"I'm a different person. I'm a lot more relaxed, a few more kids, a few more responsibilities and I just enjoy my rugby, that's the main thing. I just love getting out there and playing."
Ma'a Nonu may be a cut above, but there is always uncertainty when it comes to his future.
Make a good fist of this chance in Edinburgh and Nonu knows there is a genuine replacement ready and waiting.
Sunday Star Times