First-five Richie Mo'unga has confirmed his availability for the All Blacks' Rugby Championship trip to Australia later this year.
Earlier this week, reports emerged that the star Crusaders pivot was unwilling to make the extended trip across the Tasman, due to his recent entry to fatherhood.
But Mo'unga has quashed those rumours, announcing that the prospect of nine weeks away is simply part of his All Blacks "duty".
"I had discussions with my wife [Sophie] and family that I’m lucky enough to have had a month with my baby [Billie]," Mo’unga says. "She turned four weeks on Sunday.
"But I do realise I am a footy player and I have a duty, and that's to play for Canterbury and, hopefully, the All Blacks."
Another new father, TJ Perenara, and Beauden Barrett, who is expecting his first child shortly, may both make themselves unavailable.
But coach Ian Foster has dismissed any suggestion that players have ruled themselves out of selection.
"It was actually quite laughable really," Mo'unga adds. "It was the first I heard of it."
"As players, we are made accountable for what we do outside of footy or on the field. I think reporters who make up speculation like that should be as well."
As much as Mo'unga has savoured being with his young family since his daughter's birth, he realises rugby is where his bread is buttered.
“For me, I've had the opportunity to be at home with my baby the last couple of weeks and I was able to be there for her birth," he says. "That’s something I wouldn't miss for the world, but we're footy players, we play rugby.
"Obviously, we're dads as well, but we’ve got to do everything we can to put food on the tables for our families."
Mo'unga admits the long absence would still be a huge challenge.
"You'd have to be a robot, if it’s not going to be tough for you when you’re away for that certain amount of time," he says.
"For me, before Billie came, rugby was No.1 and it's still No.1, but I just have a little girl with me now.
"Priorities chop and change throughout the week. On my day off tomorrow, I’ll be with Billie the whole day and make the most of that.
"I know, on Thursday, when I come in here, I've got to roll my sleeves up and get to work."
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