Rugby World Cup 2019: Brodie Retallick return relief for tormented All Blacks teammates

By all accounts, All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick has been back to his old tricks in recent times, building towards his return to playing field.

That is to say, he's been an absolute pain in the butt.

"He's been a little bit annoying over the last couple of weeks," acknowledges second-row running mate Sam Whitelock, who should know better than most. 

"It's good to know he's back to where he wants to be and good to have him on the same side, as opposed to being in the opposition and annoying us.

"He's definitely annoying at lineout time, maul time, at the breakdown… I know he pesters the halfbacks a little bit, when they pass it. He'll give them a wee push or pull their arm.

"They're probably the happiest to see him out there."

Grins Retallick: "I like annoying the ones that bite pretty easily."

In July, his chances of playing at the Rugby World Cup looked in jeopardy, after he dislocated a shoulder against South Africa in Wellington.

On Sunday, Retallick will line up for the All Blacks in a pool match against Namibia, a team that offers little more than an opposed training run.

That will provide a fitting first step back towards reclaiming his spot in the top team for bigger games to come - Italy next week and the quarter-finals beyond.

The initial prognosis was for a possible return in the playoffs, so this appearances comes a little earlier than expected. 

"Obviously, we wanted to make sure it was in the right spot, before going out and risking it," says Retallick. "To be able to get a run this weekend, is important.

"I obviously want to push my case, moving forward over the next couple of weeks, so by getting game time - it's been 8-9 weeks since the injury happened - I'm definitely looking forward to getting out there.

"While you can do some running, nothing compares to match fitness. It'll be good to get some game time under the belt."

Another glad to see Retallick back in the fold is All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

"He's been annoying," ecohes Hansen. "Particularly over the last couple of training runs.

"He's decided it's time to be an annoying guy again, so that's always a good sign, and he's counting down. He knows how long until he gets to play - he's been counting for the last five days and tells me every day. 

"He's pretty excited and he should be."

Hansen confirmed his star forward's playing time would be carefuly managed and would likely be limited to about 30 minutes. 

Essential Guide to 2019 Rugby World Cup

Everything you need to know about rugby and the World Cup...

The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 in Japan - the first time it has been hosted in Asia.

Join us at 5:45pm Sunday for live updates of the All Blacks v Namibia Rugby World Cup clash