Off-season breaks which eat into Super Rugby could well become the norm for Codie Taylor.
The All Blacks' hooker will make his first appearance for the Crusaders this year on Saturday night, when the back-to-back champions host the Chiefs at Christchurch Stadium.
Along with Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read, he's one of three Crusaders All Blacks yet to play this season due to extended breaks, which Taylor hinted were set to stay for some All Blacks.
"What's been done really well in New Zealand and the Crusaders, is they've taken us aside and given us all individual plans for the season. Looking into the future, they will probably do the same thing to get the best out of their players," Taylor said when asked if he would miss the start of future seasons.
"I think New Zealand Rugby have nailed it. The balance between [NZR] and the franchises is pretty good, that there is pretty clear ideas of what they want from their players."
There is no doubt Taylor's workload in 2018 warranted an extended break.
The 27-year-old played 17 games (15 starts) for the red and blacks, before starting all three June tests against France, and all six Rugby Championship tests. He also started the third Bledisloe Cup match in Japan, before starting against England and Ireland during the northern tour.
It took his total number of games in 2018 to 29. The only tests he didn't feature in were against Japan and Italy.
"Not at the time," Taylor said when asked if he felt like he needed a break from the sport.
"I was raring to go. I was loving my time out there. It wasn't until I got home and spent time with the family that I realised it was exactly what I needed. I got a lot of time to do that and refresh and mentally get excited again for another big season."
While Taylor is back, captain Whitelock isn't available until the Crusaders play the Highlanders in Dunedin Saturday week. Read was initially expected to be back for the fixture, but it's now understood he might not be sighted until the Crusaders meet the Hurricanes in Wellington on March 29 (round seven).
Taylor was available to play the Reds in Brisbane last week, but the Crusaders opted to sit him and burn one of the two mandatory rest weeks which impact all All Blacks.
"I've had almost three months' off playing footy. Imagine how itchy my feet are," said Taylor, who is contracted to NZR and the Crusaders through 2021.
"It's hard to be selfish in those times. We play a team sport, you want to be out there with your brothers, whether it's here or the All Blacks. What the boys have done over the summer here, they've been putting on a show the last couple of weeks."
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, who has opted to return Taylor to the mix via the bench, has more All Blacks to juggle than any of the other Kiwi Super coaches.
Having played the majority of them in their three consecutive wins to start the year, he's sat Owen Franks, flanker Matt Todd and wing George Bridge this week, knowing full well he must tick off rest weeks, and isn't permitted to start any of them in more than five consecutive games.
"There is a real art to it, and you make the best of it, and have skilful conversations," Robertson said. "What it does do is build your squad depth, players get opportunities from it.
"It's great to have Codie back, and Sam will be back next week. There will be a bit more of a leadership in the group with the amount of games they've played for us and the experience they have."
AT A GLANCE
Saturday, 5.15pm, Christchurch Stadium
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
TAB odds: Crusaders $1.18 Chiefs $4.70
Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty (captain), Braydon Ennor, Richie Mo'unga, Ere Enari, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Billy Harmon, Jordan Taufua, Scott Barrett, Mitchell Dunshea, Michael Alaalatoa, Andrew Makalio, Joe Moody. Reserves: Codie Taylor, Harry Allan, George Bower, Luke Romano, Ethan Blackadder, Bryn Hall, Brett Cameron, David Havili.
Chiefs: Solomon Alaimalo, Sean Wainui, Tumua Manu, Anton Lienert-Brown, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Damian McKenzie, Brad Weber, Taleni Seu, Lachlan Boshier, Mitchell Brown, Tyler Ardron, Brodie Retallick (c), Nepo Laulala, Nathan Harris, Aidan Ross. Reserves: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Tevita Mafileo, Angus Ta'avao, Jesse Parete, Mitchell Karpik, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Jack Debreczeni, Alex Nankivell.