All Blacks legend Dan Carter has laughed off the prospect of attending a fifth Rugby World Cup, as a solution to New Zealand's first-five mini-crisis.
Carter, 37, was formally invested as an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit at an Auckland ceremony on Wednesday, an honour originally bestowed three years ago.
But he had to remove a neck brace to accept the medal from Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy and was quick to dismiss any prospect of an emergency recall to the national team.
Carter is five weeks into a three-month recovery from neck surgery, after failing a fitness test with French club Racing 92. He is currently contracted to Kobelco Steelers in the Japanese Top League.
"I was having a little laugh at that, when I heard my name being thrown around," Carter told media. "I think I can start contact training again in October.
"I might be right for a semi-final or final, and taking my first big tackle back in a game like that would be quite entertaining.
"My focus is on recovering from this, with the hope of finishing off my contract in Japan."
At the 2011 World Cup, the All Blacks were forced to recall Stephen Donald for a telling cameo performance, after injuries ruled Carter, Aaron Cruden and Colin Slade out of the tournament.
New Zealand's first-five depth has suffered from the departures of Carter, Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga since the 2015 World Cup triumph, and took another blow, with Damian McKenzie's season-ending injury last month.
Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga are still capable of guiding their team to a title three-peat, but if one were to fall, the cupboard looks bare, bringing Carter, Cruden and Sopoaga back into the conversation.
Notably, former All Black coach Sir Graham Henry - who masterminded the 2011 success - dropped Carter's name as candidate to return.
"I think there's enough talent and guys that are versatile enough to fill in those positions," said Carter. "The coaches have been around for a while and will be working on things behind the scenes to give them security, in case there are more injuries.
"We've been in that situation before and managed to win a World Cup, so we've got a lot of confidence."