Sonny Bill Williams was absent from All Blacks training again yesterday but management remain hopeful he will be in the mix for Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup clash with Australia.
The All Blacks trained largely behind closed doors in Auckland and there was no sign of Williams.
He remains in the middle of a contract web between his new Japanese club Panasonic Wild Knights and the New Zealand Rugby Union who want him available for the consecutive clashes against Australia because of midfield injury problems to Conrad Smith on top of the earlier loss of Richard Kahui.
'It's pretty close . . . we're pretty hopeful,' All Blacks manager Darren Shand said last night.
'There are a number of parties that have to be happy . . . a number of pieces of a jigsaw that have to be put together.'
With the test that opens the new Rugby Championship looming quickly, Shand said there was a desire to get things resolved 'earlier rather than later'.
The All Blacks are basing their training in Auckland, only leaving for Sydney on Thursday night for the match at the massive ANZ Stadium.
Williams underwent a medical test on Friday to satisfy his Japanese employers of his fitness following an arduous Super Rugby campaign that ended with the superstar scoring the final try in the Chiefs' grand final win over the Sharks last Saturday.
The All Blacks are comfortable that Williams can get back up to speed quickly with their methods.
Yesterday skipper Richie McCaw, like coach Steve Hansen the day before, made it clear he expected Williams to be in the mix.
'As far as I know he's available,' McCaw said.
'With Conrad injured, having Sonny, Ma'a and Tamati available in the midfield certainly helps.
"He's played particularly well."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Is Richie McCaw now the greatest All Black of all time?