Comeback winger Cory Jane is set to be rushed back outside new centre Ben Smith in the third Bledisloe Cup test against Australia in Dunedin.
That was the clear message from coach Steve Hansen on Tuesday after Jane, 30, trained with the All Blacks on Tuesday for the first time this year.
Jane had a knee reconstruction after suffering a ligament tear in January and has played just a 40-minute hitout followed by a full game for Wellington in the NPC since his return to training last month.
“He was world-class before he was injured and we expect him to get back to that standard pretty quickly,” Hansen said of the 43-Test veteran.
“He wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think he was ready to start. He and Ben have similar skills. He’s very good with his kick and chase, he’s good in the air and he’s a great finisher.”
Hansen has no qualms about shifting Smith from the wing to start just his second Test at centre in place of veteran No.13 Conrad Smith, who has begun a four-month break from rugby.
Hansen admits there is a risk changing the role of a player who is in form but believes Ben Smith has the all-round game required.
“We need to find another centre – Conrad has been the one and only for a long time – and now’s the time to do that.
“He (Ben Smith) is not going in there cold. He trained there a lot as he was cover for Conrad during the championship and he finished the test against Argentina at second five-eighth.”
The clamour for Beauden Barrett to start at first five-eighth is set to fall on deaf ears with an indication Aaron Cruden has recovered from a knee niggle and will wear No.10 again – as he did in the 38-27 defeat of South Africa at Ellis Park before being replaced by Barrett.
“Beauden has closed out Tests really well, he is coming along nicely,” Hansen said.
“But the expectation is that all these guys will be better than the last time they played.”
The All Blacks will train again on Wednesday while the Wallabies will fly into Queenstown for two days of preparation.
Officials reported the Forsyth Barr Stadium indoor venue will be filled to its capacity of almost 30,000 for the dead rubber third Bledisloe Cup Test.