Conrad Smith is likely to test out his broken thumb and blow the cobwebs out of his lungs during Wellington's pre-season match against Manawatu at the Hutt Recreation Ground on Friday.
The All Black centre hasn't played since breaking his thumb during the second test against England in Dunedin on June 14.
With the All Blacks' opening test of the Rugby Championship against Australia on August 16, Smith will be keen to gain some match fitness before the next stage of the test season.
Smith has been included in an extended Wellington Lions squad named by coach Chris Boyd.
The 41-man squad includes Wellington's six current All Blacks - Smith, Dane Coles, TJ Perenara, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea and Cory Jane - as well as injured No 8 Victor Vito (neck). That group is unlikely to play a major part in the Lions' ITM Cup campaign, but is part of a strong squad nonetheless.
It includes some exciting young talent and some old faces.
Former British and Irish Lions utility back Riki Flutey and Melbourne Rebels fullback Jason Woodward return home along with Fijian test forward Api Naikatini, after stints in Japan and France, wing Belgium Tuatagaloa, after a stint with Canterbury during which he broke a leg, and midfielder Ope Peleseuma from a season with Taranaki.
Former All Black prop John Schwalger is included despite battling blood clots on his lungs this year, while fellow front-rower Eric Sione is on the comeback trail after missing the entire Super Rugby season through injury.
The young brigade includes former New Zealand age-grade representative lock Christian Lloyd, back after two years out with a serious leg injury, as well as current national under-20s players, hooker James O'Reilly and second five-eighth Jackson Garden-Bachop.
Boyd has thrown an opportunity the way of some fringe players, including fullback Sam McNicol, props Tolu Fahamokioa and Taniela Koroi, midfielders Parataiso Siliafai-Leaana and Wes Goosen, lock/loose forward Vaea Fifita, and halfbacks Jared Kahu and Matt O'Connor.
Wellington's final squad will be named on August 11 with their opening match of the ITM Cup against Waikato at Westpac Stadium on August 16.
Wellington Lions extended squad: Forwards: Motu Matu'u, Mark Reddish, Ardie Savea (Oriental Rongotai), Dane Coles, Reggie Goodes (Poneke), Tolu Fahamokioa, Taniela Koroi, Kaipati Gaualofa (Tawa), Victor Vito, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen (Marist St Pat's), Eric Sione, Api Naikatini, John Schwalger (Northern United), Jeremy Thrush, James O'Reilly (Hutt Old Boys' Marist), Christian Lloyd (Upper Hutt Rams), Brad Shields, Ross Filipo (Petone), Vaea Fifita (Wellington), Adam Hill (Old Boys' University). Backs: TJ Perenara, Jackson Garden Bachop (Northern United), Frae Wilson, Tau Mamea (Wainuiomata), Jared Kahu, Riki Flutey, Belgium Tuatagaloa, Sam McNicol (Petone), Ma'a Nonu, Afa Fa'atau, Ambrose Curtis, Matt Proctor, Julian Savea (Oriental Rongotai), Shaun Treeby (Tawa), Ope Peleseuma, Parataiso Siliafai-Leaana (Hutt Old Boys' Marist), Conrad Smith, Wes Goosen, Matt O'Connor (Old Boys' University), Cory Jane, Jason Woodward (Upper Hutt Rams).
- The Dominion Post
With Nonu out, who would you like to see paired with Conrad Smith in the All Blacks midfield?