Aaron Smith's decision to miss the end of the Rugby Championship will extend his test career with the All Blacks, the halfback says.
Smith, 32, will stay in New Zealand for the final three matches of the Rugby Championship, after skipping the tour to support wife Teagan, currently pregnant with their second child.
Meantime, Smith will turn out for his native Manawatu in the NPC, returning to don the green-and-white hoops.
But as hard as the decision was for Smith to miss five All Blacks tests, the halfback hopes that stepping back from test-match intensity will benefit him come the back end of his career.
The veteran of 100 tests signed a new deal with NZ Rugby earlier this year, committing to play on at least through the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
And Smith believes his decision to stay home will pay dividends, as the All Blacks bid to regain the Webb Ellis Cup in two years.
"It's a blessing in disguise, the time off with my body and the mental break," Smith says. "The training's not always the hard one.
"I'm a halfback, so the knocks aren't exactly the same as the forwards, the loose forwards, the locks and stuff.
"My role's always around my body, my running metres and stuff. I look after myself well during the year, but not having those knocks - test-rugby knocks - and back-to-back games away, it's just going to add to the end of my career hopefully."
For the immediate future, Smith also hopes missing the Rugby Championship won't signal the end of his 2021 All Blacks season.
With the baby in November, there is still a window for Smith to link with the All Blacks on their northern hemisphere end-of-year tour, where they'll face the USA, Wales, Italy, Ireland and France.
"Baby will come when baby comes," Smith adds. "There's a hope there, I'm going to hang onto it.
"I think I need to play some footy. If I can play some decent minutes, play well enough and if Fozzy [coach Ian Foster] feels like it looks good enough to come over, I'll be happy to join.
"I feel like it's at that stage for me where if it lines up, and Fozzy feels like I'm in a good enough space to come and join and have an impact, I'll do it.
"My wife's already said that that's an option, if baby comes early, that she'd be happy for me to go. If that happens, I'll jump at it."
For now, Smith eagerly anticipates his return to play for the Turbos, but the realities of rugby below test level are starting to bite, with even the world's best halfback facing the challenges of playing at provincial level.
"I've had a good month off now, so I'm heading up to Manawatu to use the back end of this week to get to know all the moves, get some contact in, get some running in and meet my new teammates.
"[I'm] getting really excited about starting a game week next Monday, getting back to that normality of being in a team, preparing for a game and preparing to play rugby again, which is exciting.
"I had to do a mad dash around, looking for an old mouthguard, because all of my stuff's in Australia with the All Blacks. I had to quickly get one made up.
"I'm good to go, all I need is some boots and a mouthguard, and I can go. I've got my favourite undies - I'm good."
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