New All Blacks lock Dominic Bird is elated with his call-up but admits that helping Canterbury win the ITM Cup final is his most immediate goal.
Uncapped Bird and utility back Tom Taylor were the Canterbury players released by the All Blacks selectors for the final in Wellington as only their core 28-man squad who featured in the Rugby Championship will not be available to play in the final.
22-year-old Bird made a successful return to action, off the bench, in Canterbury's 56-26 semi-final victory over Auckland. This after he spent the past four months on the sidelines with a pectoral muscle injury.
Although he came on as a late replacement against Auckland, Bird is hopeful Crusaders coach Scott Robertson will find a place in the starting line-up for him in the final.
"I know I could prepare during the week to start, and I'd be as excited as hell to do that," Bird told Fairfax Media.
"But it's just a matter of whether Razor (Robertson) thinks it's right; that's obviously his decision. It would be a bit of a stretch, I guess, but I'd be really keen to start."
Robertson is lucky that Bird and Taylor will be back for Canterbury as Wellington coach Chris Boyd will be without lock Jeremy Thrush and scrum-half TJ Perenara, who will remain with the All Blacks.
"It's just exciting to get back on the pitch, that's been the biggest focus for me at the moment," added Bird.
The 22-year old's rehab went according to plan and he is determined to help Cantabury win their sixth successive ITM Cup title.
He is one of three Canterbury locks in the All Blacks squad - alongside Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano - and believes he has benefited from training and playing with established internationals.
"If you're alongside world-class guys, and you're pushing them and they're pushing me, it just means we all get better."