Incumbent All Blacks captain Sam Cane is poised for a one-off appearance for King Country in the Heartland Championship, as he transitions from injury to an international rugby return.
The Chiefs loose forward hasn't played since rupturing a chest muscle during Super Rugby Aotearoa in March, but will join the national side in the United States later this month for their northern hemisphere tour.
He will accompany locks Sam Whitelock and Josh Lord, hooker Dane Coles and fellow flanker Shannon Frizell to Washington DC, as reinforcements for the road-weary All Blacks.
But while Lord and Frizell have turned out for Taranaki and Tasman in this year's National Provincial Championship, Cane, Whitelock and Coles are all short of a gallop, and hope to rectify that this weekend.
"Sammy [Whitelock] was due to play last weekend - obviously things are changing in New Zealand - but they are expected to play this weekend and will jump on a plane Thursday week," says coach Ian Foster.
Whitelock and Coles will likely face each other on Friday, when Canterbury visit Wellington in the capital, but with Bay of Plenty idle, Cane has had to looker further afield for his opportunity.
"We're looking around to see if he might be available to play a game of Heartland rugby," says Foster. "I'm not sure of the latest on that, but he's desperate to do that, so we'll see how the bureaucratic cogs chug their way through that one."
Cane has since tweeted to confirm his appearance for King Country against Whanganui in Taupō on Saturday.
"It's been a long six months, but the body is ready to play some rugby again," he says. "Really looking forward to linking up with the might King Country Rams this weekend in the Heartland Championship."
Join us on October 24 for live updates of the All Blacks v USA Eagles clash