All Blacks midfielder Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has decided to cut his summer break short, returning to the field with the Blues for their pre-season clash against the Hurricanes on Saturday.
After last year's northern tour, the All Blacks were afforded a longer pre-season break to recover before the new Super Rugby Pacific season, with an eye to keeping players fresh for test commitments later in the year.
But after struggling to break into the All Blacks starting plans in 2022, Tuivasa-Sheck has been given special dispensation to return to the Blues' ranks early in order to get more minutes on the park.
And following his impressive season last year, when the Blues finished runners-up to the Crusaders, the Auckland-based side are confident the 29-year-old will continue to improve the more he plays.
"He has just come on leaps and bounds," Blues assistant coach Dan Halangahu said.
"He's made some really big shifts from where he was 12 months ago - which you'd expect from a guy who's pretty much new to the game.
"Now we see him in that second year, he looks a lot more comfortable. That time he's had in the All Black environment has really paid off for him as well.
"He's asked to play this game, we know he's been given an exemption to be able to be out there.
"That just shows how eager he is to keep learning, to keep applying what he's learning under those game conditions."
Tuivasa-Sheck will face competition from the likes of Jordie Barrett, David Havili and Jack Goodhue for the All Blacks' No.12 jersey, with the World Cup in France looming later this year.
Halangahu also confirmed Tuivasa-Sheck will stay in the Blues' midfield, despite suggestions he'll need to be able to play more than one position if he's to break into the All Blacks' World Cup plans.
Proven as one of the NRL's best fullbacks before his code switch, Tuivasa-Sheck spent time on the wing for Auckland during last year's NPC.
"He'll be at 12," he continued. "He loves being in there closer to the mix [and] getting his hands on the ball.
"That's been a focus for us - getting him more involved in the game, and him understanding when he can insert himself in our structures to create opportunities for himself."
The Blues open their Super Rugby Pacific campaign on February 25, taking on the Highlanders in Dunedin.