Dan Carter says he's ready to start against the Wallabies if required but All Blacks captain Richie McCaw has warned against the star playmaker being seen as a "miracle man" for his struggling side.
Carter started his return to the international scene when he was part of the All Blacks 31-man training squad that got down to business in Auckland on Wednesday afternoon.
A lengthy meeting to debrief the double disaster in South Africa was followed by an intense training session in west Auckland that was marred by an ankle injury to halfback Piri Weepu.
There were no worries around Carter though. He was in the thick of the action and after practice declared he was up to starting the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney on Saturday week.
He believed he had made significant progress in his Air New Zealand Cup outings with Canterbury to be ready for a test recall.
"That's why I'm here. I feel like I'm ready to play at international level again. I am lucky with my experience to know what to expect and it is a huge step up from Air New Zealand Cup ... but I wouldn't be here if I didn't think I was ready to play international rugby again.
"I'm hopeful (of starting). To be back in this environment is great but I really want to push to get out on the field (against Australia)."
McCaw was delighted to have his old mate at his side again. He has no doubts about Carter's abilities but warns that he shouldn't be seen as a one-man fix-it for the All Blacks' problems.
"He a classy sort of man and he's shown over the last couple of weeks that he has got over his injury and to have him running around here is great," said McCaw.
"I presume he will be in the mix for next weekend which will be great. We have got to make sure that we make it easy for him to just go about what he does well.
"We don't expect him to come back in and be the miracle man. We have all got things we have got to make sure we get right.
"He has just got to slot in and carry on with the things he does well. We have got to make it as easy as we can for him. That's the challenge for all of us. But I'm sure he will fit in no trouble as all."
McCaw felt there would be benefits to the enforced break Carter endured with his six months layoff with an Achilles problem.
"I think perhaps mentally he is even better (than before)," McCaw said.
"He has had a break and he's pretty excited about getting into the rugby. I think from that point of view there is probably a silver lining about having a break like he has.
"Physically he doesn't seem any different to me. Every game he plays no doubt he will get better and better. What he did last weekend (for Auckland against Canterbury) was pretty damn good.
"Experience counts a fair bit and he's in a pretty important position at 10 obviously. You have confidence in him. But it doesn't stop the guys around him doing their bit well and helping him out."
Carter said he had full confidence in his injured leg and didn't feel it or think of it at all during his recent game time.
Carter got plenty of time at first five-eighths as the backs went though their drills in Waitakere. Interestingly Luke McAlister was running at second five-eighths for much of the session while Cory Jane was on the right wing in place of Joe Rokocoko.
The forwards concentrated on their lineout work and put in a solid scrum session as well.
There was also attention given to work under the high ball and at the breakdowns with all these areas being exposed in the consecutive losses to the Springboks that have put the All Blacks defence of their Tri-Nations title in jeopardy.
There were also some honest truths rammed home in their pre-training meeting.
"We didn't gloss over anything," McCaw said of the meeting that saw the coaches doing plenty of talking.
"We had to make sure that we addressed the things we needed to. I think the big thing that came out of it was that you can come off a game like that thinking everything is all wrong but it's little things that are fixable. We have to make sure we fix them before next weekend.
"It's not all doom and gloom. But we had to be pretty honest about things that weren't right."
The All Blacks will name a 26-man travelling squad on Saturday night with the players leaving for Sydney on Sunday.
The team to play Australia will be named on Tuesday. Expect Carter to be at No 10.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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