The injured All Black skipper Kieran Read and fellow loose forward Jerome Kaino could play in the first test against the British and Irish Lions, even without any match play between now and then.
Read has had surgery on a broken thumb and is expected to be out for six weeks which could have him back in time for the Lions match against the Crusaders on June 10th, two weeks before the first test in Auckland.
Kaino is due back a week later.
The squad for the first test against the British and Irish Lions will be named on Thursday, June 8th.
It's highly unlikely Read or Kaino will have been back on the field by that stage but they'll no doubt be named in the squad subject to fitness.
All Blacks selector Grant Fox says even if their recovery is behind schedule that won't rule them out of contention.
"Of course it's preferable they would get a bit (of match play) but they have played a lot of test rugby...so it's not like a relatively inexperienced guy, still finding his feet," said Fox.
"And if we go back to the not too distant past, Richie McCaw was one who could...play no rugby at all and then come off an injury and just roll his sleeves-up and it was like he hadn't missed a trick, but there's not many like him.
"But Reido and Jerome have played plenty of test rugby ...and a little bit of rugby would be preferable and we're confident they'll get that," he said.
While not yet official the All Blacks are expected to play Samoa in a test the week before the Lions series begins, which All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will no doubt want Read and Kaino to at least take some part in.
Despite what looms as a highly physical series where experience will also be key, Fox said they aren't averse to playing less experienced players.
"We can't control injuries...and if they happen to not be available we'll just roll up our sleeves and get on with it.
"It's not like we don't have options. Loose forward in particular is a position where there's lots of depth and if they're not available then it will just be someone else's opportunity.....we've got a coaching group that is very adept at blooding new guys and if that's the case we'll just get on with it," said Fox.
The Lions begin their tour of New Zealand on Saturday, June 3rd, with a match against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei.