All Blacks hopeful Akira Ioane has opened up about his mental health battles, following his omission from the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad.
Having been involved with the All Blacks' setup on numerous occasions, Ioane is yet to make his Test debut, former coach Steve Hansen raising concerns over his fitness and attitude.
Those concerns saw Ioane miss out on the All Blacks' squad to head to Japan for last year's World Cup, the likes of Luke Jacobson and Shannon Frizell preferred as loose forward cover.
Speaking to Radio Sport though, Ioane revealed the toll that consitently being overlooked took on him including losing his love for the game.
"In the Mitre 10 [Cup] I had a little bit of time off and came back and wasn't really enjoying rugby," Ioane said.
"It was one of those years where I wasn't really enjoying it and over-doing it I guess, trying too hard to impress the wrong people.
"I'm just a dude who thought I could come in and it'd be good. I'm still young and I thought all this mental health awareness stuff was all rubbish… but it hits you pretty hard when you don't know how to deal with certain outcomes that don't go your way."
However, having had the summer off to enjoy time away from the game, Ioane is now looking forward to what 2020 has to bring, starting with the Blues' Super Rugby season opener on January 31 against the Chiefs at Eden Park.
"I'm enjoying myself, enjoying being back in the team environment and working hard for the boys and for the Blues.
"It's little things that I had to work on last year, and I didn't do that.
"This season I'll step up and hopefully if I do get my chance, I'll get my chance."