An intense eating and weights routine has resulted in back-up All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor packing on the power and size.
Taylor, who has played eight tests since making his debut against Argentina in Christchurch last year, weighed 108kg while playing for the Crusaders this season, but has put on four kilograms in order to make more of an impact at the higher level.
With Dane Coles undergoing a big workload with the Hurricanes going all the way in Super Rugby, a campaign which resulted in a painful rib injury, Taylor could be on the brink of a start in either Buenos Aires, where the All Blacks, who have already won the Rugby Championship, play the Pumas next Sunday, or against South Africa a week later in Durban.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has already indicated that he will look to mix things up in terms of his selections as he mitigates against high workloads and an intense travel schedule, and Taylor could be one of those provided with an opportunity.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
"I have been focusing ever since that June series [against Wales] on packing on the size," Taylor told Radio Sport in Buenos Aires. "Test footy is a bit more physical and that's where I've got to - I've made a good weight to play test footy and now I just need the lungs to catch up."
Asked what it took to make such gains, Taylor said: "You're surrounded by the coaches and one of the world's best trainers, so that always helps. And then you've got the nutritionist who is always on your case, giving you the old fat pinch, which is good.
"Obviously it takes a lot of weights, a lot of eating and a lot of top ups to keep my fitness up.
"I'm 112kg now. My goal was 110kg so I've surpassed that a little bit. On a good day in Super Rugby I was 108kg. Four kilos doesn't sound like much but you definitely feel it."
The extra size and strength allows Taylor to make more of an impact in the scrum and in the contact areas, although he joked that he felt it "mainly in my lungs and in my legs, trying to get around the paddock".
The 25-year-old has impressed with his composure, pace and skill level since his debut last year, a match in which he scored a try on his home pitch. He has made only two starts during his test career - against Namibia in the World Cup, and Australia in Sydney in August - but is knocking on the door of another one as he becomes increasingly comfortable in the All Blacks' set-up.
"It's a younger environment this year," he said. "Last year I was probably a little bit more tense... but this year I feel more confident in the group and ready to play some good footy."