It’s been a long road back, through the Americas, via a boat in Quito where an Ecuadorian girl in an All Blacks jersey recognised me, and finally back home to the Crusaders. A couple of months ago I was in Machu Pichu, following in the footsteps of Conrad Smith, trying to fathom how they built this monumental stone city in the 15th century with little in the way of tools. Now I’m back to working out opposition defensive patterns.
I was glad to get away and I’m glad to be back. It’s been a hard road as well as a long one. The last few weeks of training have been some of the most intensive. After five and a half months out I had to get the body prepared for the hits it will get in a game. I’ve been tackling Wyatt Crockett and Kieran Read and all the other Crusaders hard men. I should be OK but you know it’s always more physical in a game however hard you prepare.
Repetition, repetition, repetition. There’s no avoiding getting fit. I’ve been playing anaerobic games, running with ball in hand over and over, working on repetitive speeds sessions. You have to try to train for game conditions.
My punting and drop kicking are back to full strength, but I am still easing back into goal kicking. I won’t pretend that it’s not nerve racking. How can the muscle I pulled in training before our final World Cup pool game not be in the back of my mind? The niggle may just still be in the brain, but it’s there.
So I am working hard on that rehab. I have lost power, flexibility and strength and it doesn’t come back overnight. So far I have been kicking goals from the 22 metre line in practice and from 15 metres in from touch. I need to build power. I am already more comfortable but it takes time to build the confidence. That comes from doing it. Again and again.
I know I will need to play well because there are some fantastic young tens coming through. Beauden Barrett’s goalkicking has been second to none and he keeps a calm head through the storm of a game. Aaaron Cruden has really improved his all round game and is also kicking well.
But I would love to get to another World Cup. I would love to play for the All Blacks in England in 2015. I have been to three World Cups and I’ve had injuries in all of them. But I still think I’m extremely young. I have re-signed to New Zealand for four years. I have the experience. Now I just need to get back out there and do it.