Cory Jane is confident his ankle is repaired and ready to go against the Chiefs on Friday night despite being bracketed in the Hurricanes' starting side.
He will need to get through training today to convince coach Mark Hammett he's ready to take his place on the right wing after an injury-enforced eight-week break. If he does that, he'll start ahead of Alapati Leiua in one of up to three changes to the side that started during the 23-22 win over the Crusaders in Christchurch two weeks ago.
All Black Victor Vito comes into the side at No 8 ahead of Brad Shields, while Chris Eaton (hamstring) is bracketed with Frae Wilson at halfback. Shields moves the reserves with Karl Lowe dropping out and Bay of Plenty's Jamie Nutbrown is bracketed on the bench with Wilson in case Eaton is ruled out.
If Jane plays, Leiua drops out of the squad with Jayden Hayward continuing to cover the midfield from the reserves.
If Jane's mood is a gauge he's a better than even chance of taking his place for the Hurricanes final Super Rugby round robin match, one they must win to have a chance of reaching the playoffs.
"I'm available. I just need to get picked now," he said. "The ankle is a little sore now and then, but it's nothing too bad. This week will be full on into it. Last week I did a bit of contact and fitness and a bit of a blowout and it was all good."
If he does start, there could be some rust in what would be his first match since the loss to the Brumbies in Wellington on May 18. But Jane said previous experience made him confident the opposite would apply.
"It was the same last year as well. We had the baby and I was out for two weeks then I did my hamstring in [South] Africa and was out for another two weeks and kind of got away from rugby every week and got to do some good training.
"I got a bit fitter, a bit stronger and came back and made the All Blacks after that then won the World Cup.
"This year I've treated it the same way. It sucks and you want to be out there playing, but there are positives with it. I got to spend a bit more time with the family, I got a bit fitter, got my body right because it was a bit sore ... and now I'm keener to get out there and play some rugby again."
The same may apply to Vito, who hasn't played since injuring his knee in the All Blacks first test win over Ireland at Eden Park on June 9. More worrying will be Eaton's hamstring. If he is ruled out, the Hurricanes will go into the match vulnerable in a key position with Wilson having just 40 minutes of Super Rugby under his belt. The experienced Nutbrown, 31, provides some assurance having played 15 matches for the Crusaders and 18 for the Chiefs before heading to Ospreys after the 2008 season.
AT A GLANCE
Hurricanes: Andre Taylor, Cory Jane/Alapati Leiua, Conrad Smith, Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Chris Eaton/Frae Wilson, Victor Vito, Jack Lam, Faifili Levave, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Ben May, Dane Coles, Reggie Goodes. Reserves: Motu Matu'u, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Brad Shields, Wilson/Jamie Nutbrown, Tusi Pisi, Jayden Hayward