The All Blacks are confident young lock Josh Lord will be a star of the future, with a shot at his test debut against USA Eagles this weekend.
After a handful of impressive NPC displays for Taranaki and five Super Rugby appearances with the Chiefs, Lord, 20, was a shock replacement in the All Blacks squad for this year's northern tour.
Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu have returned home to New Zealand, leaving Lord as one of four specialist locks in the side, along with captain Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Tupou Vaa'i.
The All Blacks face five tests in as many weeks across two continents, so Lord is almost certain of a test debut before the end of 2021.
That opportunity may come on Sunday, when New Zealand face USA Eagles at Washington DC.
The home side's second-tier status may allow the All Blacks to rest their frontline players, putting Lord right in the mix.
While assistant coach John Plumtree won't reveal whether the rookie will take the field this weekend, the young lock is already turning heads inside the All Blacks camp.
"There's been a lot to take in, if he's selected," Plumtree says. "But certainly knowing him for a short time and knowing him through the conversations that I've had with the other players, I don't think it's going to intimidate him.
"He's certainly showed me that he's a smart youngster, switched on to the calling system.
"Tupou Vaa'i's taken him under his wing, teaching him. Obviously, Tups is pretty young in that regard as well, but it's nice to have those boys - that we see as the future of the locking department - there working together.
"If Josh gets a start this week or comes off the bench, I'm sure he's not going to let anyone down. He's a really natural athlete, with a good attitude.
"There's a big future in front of him."
The All Blacks name their side to face USA on Friday.
Join Newshub for live updates of the All Blacks v USA from 8:30am Sunday.