Blues and All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett has revealed the extent of the cut near his Achilles, saying it needed about 20 stitches and that it went perilously close to severing his tendon and ending his rugby year.
Barrett suffered the injury during the Blues' victory over the Reds at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on May 19 which ruled him out of his team's subsequent home wins over the Hurricanes and Highlanders.
But while the Blues have missed him during those tight derby victories, how close he was to being ruled out not only of the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs, but also the World Cup, has not been publicly known until now.
"It was a sprig straight across my Achilles — it did everything but nick my tendon," Barrett told the media today as he prepared for his comeback in the quarter-final against the Waratahs at Eden Park on Friday.
Asked whether it could have been more serious, he said: "Absolutely." Could it have been the end of his World Cup dream? "It could have been," he said.
"It was a good gash," he added. "I've got a photo — I must have been pretty lucky for it not to nick the tendon."
The upshot is that a refreshed and healthy Barrett will start at first-five against the Waratahs as the Blues seek to go one better than last year.
His leadership and decision making will be welcome at the business end of a season he described as "turbulent" and "frustrating".
The Blues have stuttered to narrow wins over the Hurricanes and Highlanders despite having a wealth of possession and territory — and a dominant scrum — in both games, and now must find the clinical edge and cohesion for the sudden-death phase of the competition.
"We're obviously pumped to be at home in potentially our last game at Eden Park for the season," Barrett said.
"We have to take the opportunity in front of us. The Waratahs can be a dangerous side if we allow them to be but we've got a plan in place to nullify the opportunities they're going to get.
"I think it's been a turbulent season for the team," he added. "It's been frustrating at times. It's certainly a different road to the playoffs than last season. We've had more adversity this season compared with this time last year and that's probably a good thing. We've learned some lessons we probably learned in the final [last season].
"From a squad point of view you've got All Blacks rest weeks, injuries, bye weeks — so many disruptions [but] every team has had its setbacks.
"We're almost at full strength and that's a great place to be."
Barrett, whose return will provide a boost in the wake of senior lock Patrick Tuipulotu's broken arm which will rule him out for six weeks, said there had been a sense of underperformance this year.
If anything, that may help provide an edge that was sorely missed against the Crusaders in last season's grand final at Eden Park when the southerners out-thought and outplayed them.
Adding to the occasion is the fact that Friday's game may be Barrett's final outing for the Blues for some time. Next year he will play in Japan for a season — his plans for 2025 onwards still up in the air.
"I'm still plotting my future whatever happens post World Cup and beyond," he said.
"It's all eventuating and happening. I'll let you know when I've got some news but it's all positive."
Asked whether he could return to the Blues, he said: "Yes absolutely, it's all on the table. That's been clear from the start of the year."
Right now there is only one fixture on his mind, however.
"When you start the season, obviously there's a World Cup in the calendar for the lucky few who make it. Right in front of us is a quarter-final. Everyone knows you've got to earn it by letting your actions do to the talking in high-pressure situations."