Injured All Blacks captain Kieran Read has ruled himself out of the season- opening Test against Samoa, leaving him in a race to be fit to face the British and Irish Lions.
Read confirmed he won't face the Samoans at Eden Park next Friday, which falls eight days out from the first of three Lions Tests.
The world class No.8 hasn't played since breaking his thumb against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on April 29, having spent the first half of the Crusaders' Super Rugby campaign recovering from wrist surgery.
Read says his return is in the hands of medical specialists.
"We've had X-rays done this week, so that will just hopefully re-affirm that everything's on track and that I can start using the thumb again," he said.
"I think Samoa is probably right out of the question, then it's just going to be how it responds."
The 31-year-old needs to play all three matches in the Lions series to reach the 100-Test mark.
Read's captaincy armband is likely to be worn by flanker Sam Cane or lock Sam Whitelock against the Samoans.
His absence will test New Zealand's loose-forward depth, with only five included in the 33-man squad announced on Thursday.
Veteran flanker Jerome Kaino (knee) and No.8 Liam Squire (thumb) haven't played for more than a month, leaving openside specialists Cane and Ardie Savea as the only fully fit possibilities.
Coach Steve Hansen named openside Matt Todd and No.8 Akira Ioane among five players to provide injury cover.