All Black Victor Vito has played 140 minutes of rugby in two months but Wellington are resigned to him not being released for the business end of the NPC.
Coach Chris Boyd won't have any of his All Blacks for Sunday's crucial home match against Taranaki, while first five-eighth Beauden Barrett is free to turn out for the visitors.
Barrett got the all-clear from the All Blacks coaches because he wasn't part of the original 26-man squad and was only called in as cover for the injured Dan Carter.
The squad to play the Wallabies in Brisbane on October 20 assemble in Christchurch on Sunday, and no concessions are being made for those who've played very little.
No 8 Vito falls into that category. He wasn't in the match-day 22 against the Springboks last Sunday, and his two All Blacks tests in the Rugby Championship totalled 58 minutes.
Vito played one NPC match for Wellington against Hawke's Bay in August. And he's unlikely to be released for the final in a fortnight, if Wellington make it, despite the All Blacks being on leave before departing for their European tour the following week.
"Whatever the All Blacks want to do . . . we just get told what to do and that's it," Boyd said.
"We fully expected Beauden to return, there's no surprise there."
The All Blacks coaches emailed all the teams at the start of the NPC and made it clear when their players were available.
"It was very obvious they were going to play little or no part in the ITM Cup. We've planned totally to have no players back," Boyd said.
The All Blacks team for the end-of-year tour assembles on October 30.
A team spokesman said the coaches' stance on releasing players for the NPC would only change in the playoffs if they felt individuals needed game time.
What NZ rugby job would you give Robbie Deans?Related story: (See story)