At the age of 36 but appearing as fit and strong as he ever has as he trained in the scorching Auckland sun today, Ma'a Nonu will attempt to roll back the years and represent the All Blacks in Japan at the World Cup in September.

Speaking to the media for the first time since his return to the Blues (his third stint at the franchise) from three years at French club Toulon, it was clear that Nonu is targeting a return to the All Blacks too and in particular a World Cup. If he makes it to Japan it will be his fourth tilt at the Webb Ellis Cup.

Not that he made it obvious during his six-minute interview with one of the largest media scrums to visit the Blues in a long time.

Asked if another World Cup was a major driver, he said: "I think it's there in everyone's minds. For me it's trying to make the Blues team first so one step at a time."

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Queried on what it would mean to go to Japan with the All Blacks after the disappointment of his 2003 World Cup in Australia and back-to-back successes in 2011 and 2015, he said: "All I'm thinking about is lunch right now and this game this week so I can't really tell you."

It's understood that Nonu has privately spoken of his desire to complete a remarkable comeback on the biggest stage but it's not surprising that he's keeping his cards close to his chest in public.

He's usually not the most loquacious in front of a microphone or notepad and, besides, he won't be doing much beyond this Blues season if he doesn't perform well for Leon MacDonald's men, starting with the Crusaders at Eden Park on Saturday. He's aware of that and aware too that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will be watching closely (although he said Hansen hadn't been in contact).

Nonu hasn't won a Super Rugby title either, although he went close a couple of times with the Hurricanes, and he probably feels he owes a little something to the Blues after a couple of disappointing stints with the franchise in 2012 and 2014.

Questions remain about how much pace the well-travelled Nonu has in his legs – he will turn 37 on May 21 – but the midfielder, who played 103 caps for the All Blacks, has always had the capacity to surprise, and, crucially, he has always been a durable and dependable player at the top level.

Ma'a Nonu of the Blues during the Super Rugby pre-season match against the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty
Ma'a Nonu of the Blues during the Super Rugby pre-season match against the Hurricanes. Photo / Getty

Jack Goodhue, 23, appears to have the No13 jersey sewn up for the All Blacks this year if he stays fit but, with fellow midfielders Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty suffering more than their share of injuries, Nonu could present a compelling case for inclusion.

"I haven't thought about stopping so hopefully I can still play at this level," he said. "That's the challenge I'm looking forward to."

Asked how he stayed in shape despite his advancing years, Nonu, who played 60 minutes for the Blues against the Hurricanes in Mangatainoka on Saturday, said: "Just [minding] what you put in your mouth, really. I haven't always been in great shape, but I've learned over the years about my body and mind. It's been a great pre-season with some great coaches and I'm still trying to achieve more goals.

"I'm older. I hope I still have the wisdom upstairs and the physicality as well to play in Super Rugby because it's really intense. The Top 14 and the Champions Cup is a brutal, brutal competition in Europe. I learned a few things playing week-in, week-out; a 35-week [season].

"I haven't won Super Rugby before. I've come up short twice. I've played a lot of semifinals for the Hurricanes. It's another driver this year."

He added of the Blues' success in winning both their pre-season games: "Pre-season doesn't really count. The first game is this weekend and we are coming up against the two-time [2017 and 2018] champions so it's going to be a tough, tough game."