This time of year is decidedly different for Julian Savea.

For the past five seasons, as he amassed 54 tests, Savea grew accustomed to finishing the year in Europe, taking a break and returning to the Hurricanes in late January.

That schedule often sees leading All Blacks start the season behind the rest of the pack.

But after missing selection for the Rugby Championship and northern tour, Savea's preseason training is already in full swing. He is also juggling father duties after the arrival of daughter Jude last week.


A few days later, brother Ardie welcomed his first daughter, Kobe.

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"It's going to be a big Christmas for us," Savea said. "It's been awesome. Things haven't been too hectic. We're in a good routine now and I'm just doing my job for mum.

"I'm enjoying it. Talking to my wife it's actually been awesome being home. Preseason is going to be hard but good and then we kick the season off with the Tens.

"I'm doing my own thing at the moment I join preseason on Monday so looking forward to getting stuck into that."

In many ways the Brisbane Global Tens tournament will set the tone for Savea's 2018, one he hopes will springboard him back into the national team. Turn up in supreme shape in the Brisbane heat, and Savea should thrive with the extra time and space to wind up.

"The Tens is the fast pace of the sevens and physicality of XVs. I'll be looking to go out there and have a jam. If you switch that around it won't be good on defence. There's a lot of good teams. We're in a pool with the Crusaders, Fiji and the Brumbies so there's lots of x-factor talent out there."

Fiji could prove a surprise package.

"They're all massive wingers. There's a lot of athletes over there. I'm dreading their offloads – you think you've made a tackle and they pop it out."

Regardless of how the Hurricanes go as a team, the Tens should, in theory, allow Savea to build some early-season confidence that he can then use as a launchpad to push for an All Blacks recall.

"That's the ultimate goal but I can't focus on that. I just need to play good footy and enjoy my rugby as I have been. I'm looking forward to next year and getting in good shape."

It won't be easy, of course. Not with Rieko Ioane locking down the left wing, and Waisake Naholo finding form on the other edge. There's also Israel Dagg, Jordie Barrett, Ben Smith and Nehe Milner-Skudder to return from injury.

For now, Savea is doing all he can. He finished 2017 on the right note, back in his happy place enjoying rugby again after playing a major role in Wellington winning the Mitre 10 Cup Championship division, and playing against the All Blacks for the Barbarians at Twickenham.

"If I was to sum it up it was having fun again. I've really enjoyed my time with the Lions and it was a special moment playing for the Baabaas against the All Blacks. It was an experience I'll never forget. It was a good tour."

The next steps are well underway. Now we wait for the Bus to move through the gears.