Rugby: 'I just want to learn' - David Havili not getting carried away despite All Blacks' midfield injury crisis

Despite the shortage of midfielders in the All Blacks' midfield stocks, David Havili isn't counting his chickens in his quest to seal a starting spot.

With Anton Lienert-Brown, Jack Goodhue and Braydon Ennor now unavailable to different injury concerns, and Ngani Laumape off to France with club side Stade Francais, the All Blacks' options in midfield are thin at best.

At present, Havili, Rieko Ioane and the uncapped Quinn Tupaea are the only specialists in the squad preparing to face Tonga and Fiji next month.

For Havili, who hasn't played for the All Blacks since 2017, the return to test level is something that the Crusaders' lynchpin didn't see coming.

The 26-year-old underwent emergency surgery in March 2020, forced to have a 20cm infection of his bowel removed, with thoughts that he might never don the black jersey again.

But after cementing himself as a key member of the Crusaders side that won a fifth consecutive Super Rugby title earlier this year, Havili would stand tall as one of New Zealand's in-form midfielders, even if his more senior teammates were available.

However, even with the list of absentees in Ian Foster's squad, Havili knows that he has to work to make the No.12 jersey his own.

"I'm just trying to get back into the swing of things at this level," Havili says.

"I'm just extremely grateful to be back in this environment, and learning off the world's best. I can't wait to get stuck into it.

"Sitting in a hospital bed, I definitely thought this day was never going to come.

"I had to put a lot of hard work into getting back to where I needed to be. There was a few conversations that I needed to have with coaches around where I needed to play.

"I just wanted to play really well for the Crusaders, and I want to carry on doing that at international level."

For now though, Havili is content with making the most of his time in the All Blacks' ranks, and the chance to feed off some of his more senior teammates.

"I'm certainly searching for an opportunity. I just want to learn as much as I can.

"I've been out of the environment for a long time now, and I'm getting alongside ALB [Lienert-Brown] to really try and cement a position, and just learn what he's done over a few years.

"He's a world-class player, so the more I can rub shoulders with him, the better I can be at the next level."

And while the move into midfield has been profitable for Havili, the three-test All Black is by no means shutting the door on his aspirations of playing fullback - the position that initially saw him earn selection under Steve Hansen four years ago.

"I'm not going to scratch myself as a 15 just yet, [but] for now [I'm] a fulltime midfielder."

Havili is in line to add to his three test appearances, when the All Blacks begin their 2021 season against Tonga on July 3 at Mt Smart Stadium.