No time for reflection as Taylor looks ahead

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Lynn McConnell     05 Feb 2016     Getty Images

Long viewed as a player with a future after his membership of the New Zealand Under-20 side in 2011, he exploded onto the scene last year, winning All Blacks status and membership of the World Cup-winning effort in England.

It was a long way removed from the player who was just looking to take any chances that came his way in Investec Super Rugby.

Taylor, 24, reflected on just how far he had come since making the Crusaders squad last year with

There had been some early opportunities and then toward the end of the Super Rugby season there had been some more chances and things had taken off from that point, he said.

The All Blacks selectors had obviously seen something about his game that was worth developing, brought him into the team environment for the Samoa Test in Apia and then picked up for the World Cup campaign which he said had been a 'huge thing' for him.

There were moments of looking back when he realised just how much had happened in a six-month period but preparing for a new Super Rugby season in 2016 meant there was little time to dwell on the past and the future quickly became the focus.

His exposure to the World Cup campaign had given him confidence to offer more leadership to the Crusaders.

While not playing as much as he would have liked in the World Cup, he knew his role and did the best that he could.

"Now that I'm back here I just want to put my hand up, offer as much as I can and to prepare like an All Black every week and to perform.

"The mental side of the game is what I learnt the most," he said.

Accepting that he needed to do all he could to help the team, even when not playing, was a form of learning to benefit his game for the future and to contribute to the World Cup success at the same time.

"Getting my first run-on start for the All Blacks at Olympic Park, against Namibia, was pretty special. It's not a rugby park at all but it is an awesome stadium to play at," he said.

Having been prepared to deal with the distractions of touring, family, friends and fans, the All Blacks were able to concentrate on rugby first and foremost and that had paid dividends overall, Taylor said.

"You could sense the senior players felt the pressure but they knew how to deal with it from the previous four years.

"Richo [Richie McCaw] and the others are very professional people, they've got the best preparation in the game, you could see that out on the field as they weren't leaving anything to chance. They were doing everything they could to prepare the team, and prepare themselves to play well," he said.

From the hooking point of view there was a last chance to tap into the reservoir of knowledge veteran hooker Keven Mealamu provided while on his last campaign.

"He was the father-figure in the team, the guy everyone looked up to and aspired to be like. He's the ultimate gentleman but on the field he's just a warrior and the knowledge that he shared with me and Dane Coles, and even Colesy helping out as well, I've taken a few things from their games that hopefully I can add to mine this year," he said.

There was an extra element to the Crusaders' preparation for the season without McCaw and Dan Carter, and with the youthful mix in the side there was plenty of excitement about the season.

It was the first time there had been so much renewal in the team and with 14 new players all were making their contribution to be part of the side.

Taylor was back training with the side the week before Christmas because he felt he needed to connect with the new players and he worked hard over the holiday period to get himself in the best condition.

"I think this year I have just got to prepare myself every week and then Saturday will look after itself if I do that."

There's always the competition with Ben Funnell, who he felt would be looking to step up this year.

"We keep each other honest, we've got a healthy relationship where we work hard together and we also butt heads at the same time so if we keep that up we're not only helping ourselves, we're helping the team as well," he said.