All Black and Crusaders captain Richie McCaw says that his almost eight month sabbatical from rugby has made him feel excited about getting on to the field again.
McCaw played in his second match this year on Saturday when he came off the bench in the Crusaders Super Rugby qualifying final.
The All Blacks captain had played 80 minutes of club rugby a week earlier and played the last 15 minutes in the Crusaders 38-9 demolition of the Reds.
McCaw would be expected to walk into almost any team but coach Todd Blackadder has suggested that he will not be making any changes for change sake.
Openside Matt Todd looks to have produced a strong enough performance against the Queensland Reds to keep McCaw on the bench for this week's Semi-final and the captain appears to be happy enough with being an impact player.
"It might be a bit tough, mightn't it," said McCaw of chances of breaking into the starting XV for the semi.
"To be honest I'm just happy to be given a shot to have a run round. I'll hope for the best next week, but the boys are going good."
"That's the big trick of sport isn't it, being able to back those performances up. You do that by preparing well. If we can produce something like that next week we'll be pretty happy."
McCaw said that his sabbatical had achieved exactly what it supposed to achieve as he is now excited about playing again.
"I was pretty nervous today turning up, and there was just an excitement about getting out on the field. That's the way rugby should be," he said.
"I don't think it had disappeared, but certainly (it) reminded me why I do it and when you see the boys running round like that ... you don't get to play this game forever, and you want to make the most of every time you get out there.
"That becomes pretty evident when you sit and watch for a while," he told Fairfax NZ News.
The Crusaders victory over the Reds was their 12th consecutive Super Rugby semi-final appearance, and a 15th in 18 years of the competition but having missed out on the title since 2009 says that disappointment of past campaigns is driving them forward.
"A lot of the boys have been in this situation the last couple of years and come up short and it would be pretty disappointing to get this far again and not put our best performance out there.
"There will be four teams now all thinking that same thing, and it comes down to the guys who can put it out there. "
"We've got to be hungry and if we can prepare like we did this week and put a performance out there it's going take a good team to match that."
"That's the key. The guys who haven't played international footy just follow on and perform like that because they see it coming from the guys who have been there and done that. Guys like DC, Kieran, Wyatt and Sam all had big games and have been playing pretty well lately.
"That's what you expect from your top players and when you've got them all doing that you sort of feed off each other."
McCaw said that the Crusaders dominance in the contact area is where they have impressed him the most.
"We really stopped their go-forward there and when we were carrying we made the advantage line most times. That's the key to rugby. "
"When they were struggling to get anywhere they had to kick it and gave us chances."
Speaking about his own fitness after a long spell out of the game he said, "There was a fair bit of running there at the end and I was blowing a bit, but I don't feel too bad considering. "
"Having had that bit of time out there along with last week, hopefully I'll be a lot better for it."