After two and a half years of hard work at the Chiefs, Aaron Cruden has made the most of the down time his broken thumb has presented.
The first-five, who had started every match for Dave Rennie's side since the coach took over in 2012, has missed the past five matches and has only recently arrived back in New Zealand after a week-long holiday in Bali. Cruden jetted back in Saturday and flew into Christchurch for the All Blacks' training camp yesterday morning.
"When the injury first happened you're always pretty disappointed and frustrated by it but you actually come to terms with what's happened and have a chance to sit back and realise you get a little bit of a rest and an opportunity to re-charge you've really got to make the most of it and I've certainly been doing that," he said.
A recent X-ray had shown his left thumb was healing nicely and he hoped to be available to play for the Chiefs against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.
Cruden has yet to catch and pass but would do so with the All Blacks over the next few days.
"It feels nice and strong. I got the cast off last week. Moving it around again, it's feeling good.
"I suppose I will be a little bit nervous the first time I put a fend out or go in to make a tackle, so I think it's important that this week I do the preparation right and if it's not feeling right I'll pull back a little bit."
Saturday's match will put Cruden against Beauden Barrett, providing the Hurricanes player recovers from the hip problem suffered in the defeat to the Highlanders on Friday.
In the absence of Dan Carter, Cruden is the No1 ranked first-five in the country, with Barrett, who has been in impressive form, third in the pecking order.
"I'm just going to be pretty excited about playing rugby again, no matter who I play," Cruden said. "If it is against the Canes this weekend, it will be a massive game, a pretty crucial one for both teams."