Chris Boyd does not expect to have any All Blacks at his disposal when the NPC merry-go-round takes its next turn on Sunday.
After hosting Hawke's Bay tonight, Wellington will be back at Westpac Stadium on Sunday to meet Southland.
The All Blacks will have assembled in Wellington by then, ahead of their September 8 test against Argentina, but don't sound inclined to release any players to the Boyd-coached Lions.
"No," Boyd said. "We're in the unfortunate situation that the All Blacks go into camp on Saturday night, so they've released All Blacks for Thursday, Friday and Saturday but not for Sunday.
"There is a possibility that that might change but, at this stage, we've got nobody for Sunday."
Loose forward Victor Vito and wing Julian Savea are the All Blacks who'll appear for Wellington tonight.
Hosea Gear and Ma'a Nonu are also contracted to Wellington, but saw plenty of game time in the two Bledisloe Cup clashes with Australia.
"They [Vito and Savea] are both keen to play . . . and we're more than happy to have them. They're good Wellington boys and keen to play, as were the other guys [Gear and Nonu], but of course you can't have them all back," said Boyd.
Vito comes into the Lions' starting side at the expense of Ardie Savea. Younger brother of Julian, the No 8 was always going to be rested for this match, Boyd said.
"He's only 18 and we need to manage his workload fairly sensibly."
Vito, himself, indicated that there remained at least some hope that he might be made available by All Blacks' management, for Sunday's Southland game.
"I'll just have to wait and see how I pull up after the game tomorrow and then reassess from there and see what the All Blacks trainers say," Vito said.
Desperate to gain a berth in the All Blacks' starting lineup, Vito added that the only way to stake a decent claim was by playing NPC rugby.
- © Fairfax NZ News