Tom Donnelly to bulk up after trot in Japan
Tom Donnelly's rehabilitation from a rugby overdose in Japan should ensure Dominic Bird is named on the Crusaders' bench for Friday night's match against the Blues.
With All Blacks locks Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano set to start at Eden Park, newcomer Bird will be listed in the reserves to give Donnelly time to recover from 12 months of constant action in Japan and New Zealand.
After the Crusaders lost their Super Rugby semifinal to the Chiefs last July, Donnelly got married and boarded a flight to join the second-division club Mitsubishi in Japan.
Having played 15 matches for Mitsubishi, the 31-year-old has returned to Christchurch for his second season.
"Physically I am a bit run down but mentally, having got back among the guys, I feel real fresh," Donnelly said.
"Over the next two or three weeks we will just work on the conditioning. Get into the gym, get a bit stronger and put a few kilos on. If someone gets injured I will be ready to play but at this point I will just freshen up."
Coach Todd Blackadder will also be cautious about the need to refresh Donnelly ahead of a long six-month season that will probably involve Whitelock and Romano representing the All Blacks' in the three-test series against France in June.
Weight-training ensured Donnelly didn't lose too much muscle. He only dropped "a couple of kilos". Eating red meat was one way of maintaining his protein intake, but that was not easy.
"I tried but it is really tough over there to get a good cut of steak or get a lot of red meat. There is a lot of pork, chicken and carbs like rice and noodles. It was part and parcel of it all."
Based about 40 minutes from Tokyo by train he, like other foreign players, was based in an apartment complex.
The pace of matches meant his upper body didn't take such a battering, but his legs suffered.
"It's not that physical but it is incredibly fast. Your calves and hammies are pretty sore after the game as opposed to your shoulders and upper body."
Like all Kiwis, he also discovered the drawn-out Japanese trainings were a novel experience.
"They sort of train without a purpose . . . There is a lot of standing around; you have to have a meeting to have a meeting about a meeting you are going to have down the track. It is all part of the experience."