Munster captain Peter O'Mahony is hoping that rugby's enforced break due to Covid-19 will help extend his playing career.
Since returning from a horrific knee injury picked up at the 2015 World Cup, O'Mahony has racked up a huge number of minutes for Munster, Ireland and the Lions. While sabbaticals are common amongst players based in the southern hemisphere, taking a break from rugby is largely unheard of in this part of the world, particularly as players are mindful of how short of a career they have.
O'Mahony returned to training along with his Munster team-mates last week and they were joined by new signings RG Snyman, Matt Gallagher and Roman Salanoa. Damian De Allende has been carrying a knock since his arrival from Japan.
O'Mahony welcomed the addition of the fresh faces around the high-performance centre in Limerick, as Munster continue to build towards their PRO14 return against Leinster on the weekend of August 22.
The 30-year-old was glad to have the chance to allow his body an extended period to recharge, and he is hoping the time off allows him to continue playing for longer.
"I think it came at a good time for me," O'Mahony said. "You hear about players taking sabbaticals and that kind of thing. Now I know it was everyone but, from my point of view, thankfully, I hadn't had any real, even short-term, injuries.
"They were just very short ones here and there but I'd played rugby, nearly every game, since returning from my injury in 2015, so it was probably good timing from my body's point of view.
"I might get a bit of time back at the other end so that's certainly a positive I'm going to take from it. I think it can't do any harm. That's the reason why you had seen guys in New Zealand take six to eight months out of the game.
"I know we didn't have that long but it won't be that far off by the time we get back playing. I think it will stand to me. I think it was really, really good timing in regard to I suppose injury-prevention and just getting a rest, getting hungrier for the game.
"I'd played a huge amount of games in the space of four or five years and it was taking its toll certainly. I feel good, I feel really hungry to get back into it.
"It was a great mental refreshment as well as a physical one, so I think there are a lot of positives to take out of it and it will certainly give me longevity and, hopefully, something back at the end of my career."
The Munster squad are in their second week of training, having increased the size of their permitted working groups.
Strict protocols remain in place throughout the high-performance centre and while O'Mahony welcomed being back in training, he admitted that it has been tricky to adjust to the new normal.
"We knew what we were expecting coming in last Monday week. There were obviously a lot of protocols we need to adhere to and that kind of thing.
"At the same time, you're 12 and 13 weeks out of rugby and you want to get back in and hit the ground running and prove yourself.
"Obviously, the competitive animal in everyone comes back out as soon as you're back in the group of six, I think it was last week, and 12 this week. Even things like speed drills, you're trying to win them straight away and stuff.
"Look, to be fair they're monitoring us after a break like that, which no professional player has ever had since they started playing professional rugby.
"I suppose you need to have the reins pulled in a little bit. You can't come back in and have 10 or 12 soft-tissue injuries in the first week, so I think we've been managed quite well and certainly there is an eagerness to come back, so it's coming back slowly with all the protocols that we need to adhere to. It's definitely different," O'Mahony added.