After nearly seven months on the sidelines, All Blacks prop Nepo Laulala is firming for his return to action, named on the bench for Counties' Mitre 10 Cup season finale against Canterbury on Saturday.
Having cemented his spot in the All Blacks' front row towards the end of 2017, Laulala's season was derailed just two weeks into his 2018 campaign, suffering a broken arm playing for the Chiefs.
However, after a long road to recovery, Laulala is just one of three All Blacks front rowers to make their returns this weekend, with the Counties prop having seen the silver lining in his time away from rugby.
"It feels like an eternity," he began.
"I'm just really grateful for the time I got with my family - especially my wife. We're expecting our first child, (I'm) just trying to stay on the positive side of it all."
This isn't Laulala's first brush with serious injury, snapping three ligaments in 2015, ruled out for a year afterwards and fearing he'd never play again.
The burly front rower has used his experience though, helping him to come back stronger for a second time.
"I've been through some pretty intense trainings lately."
"This is my first full week with the boys. I'm going for whatever minutes I get, even if I get five minutes, I'll just be grateful to get back on the field, and just get an opportunity again."
Laulala will make his Counties debut, should he come off the bench.