Code-hopping All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams is set to make his return to the 15-a-side game on Saturday, eight months after he ruptured his Achilles tendon while playing sevens at the Rio Olympics.
Williams was named Thursday to start off the bench for the Auckland Blues in their Super Rugby match against the Otago Highlanders, with just over two months to reach peak form before the British and Irish Lions arrive.
"I got to get away from footy for a bit and now I'm itching to get back out there," Williams said after the Blues team was named, adding he felt fully refreshed.
"I made a decision early on that I was going to come back in better shape than before the injury. Time will tell if that will happen but I'm certainly in a good frame of mind."
Williams focused on sevens rugby last year and his last outing in a 15s match was in the All Blacks when they beat Australia to win the World Cup final in 2015.
The midfielder believed his speed had improved during his lay-off, and he had added "subtleties" to his game, but he was not expecting to immediately perform at 100 percent.
"I'm not going out there to set the world on fire but I'm going out to work hard. Once I get my shot that's what I'll be doing. I'll be pushing myself," he said.
"I just want to get out there and play some footy rather than worrying about if I'm going to make this team or if I'm going to start.
"I've got confidence in myself. I know if I play as well as I can, I can do some things like that but I've got to keep it simple."
Blues coach and former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga, said Williams "feels a lot better than he did prior to his injury when he was playing a lot of sevens. He feels strong".