Dane Coles experienced his first dose of the All Blacks environment in Wellington this week and the Hurricanes hooker wants to be part of the national side for their end of year tour in November.
The 25-year-old rake, who started all 16 games for the Hurricanes in this year's Super Rugby campaign, was brought in to the All Blacks' wider training group for this week's two-day camp in the capital as the coaching unit continues to develop their hooking depth.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has veterans Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore in the set-up, but his third-choice to wear the No 2 jumper is less clear with Hika Elliot and Corey Flynn both having had a run during the past year.
Mealamu and Hore are both 33 and Flynn is 31, which has brought about the need for a younger back-up to be unearthed.
Coles thrived this year as he finally got the chance to regularly get out on the paddock at Super Rugby level and he said his game had grown as a result.
"I'd love to be here full-time, that's my dream," Cole said of the All Blacks.
"But I'm just happy to be here at the moment and I've just enjoyed the last couple of days.
"I'll definitely be trying to target the end of year tour but I've got to have a good ITM Cup and hopefully things go my way."
Coles logged 1070 minutes of Super Rugby action this year and will lace up his boots for Wellington in the ITM Cup, which gets underway later this month.
One of the major facets of play he needs to work on is his lineout throwing, which has been a mixed bag at times.
"I've just got to be consistent and work hard during the week so come game time I'm confident in my core roles and I've just got to keep working hard. I can't let it get me down too much because it's a hooker's job. If you can't throw you can't be an All Black."
Mealamu, who experienced a tough season as the Blues' Super Rugby campaign lurched from bad to worse this year, said he was excited to be back with the All Blacks and could relate to Coles' anticipation of being around the squad as a rookie.
"It was a long time ago. I can still vividly remember my first time being with the All Blacks. It's an amazing feeling playing with some great players so it was a good time for me," Mealamu said.
Coles has spoken highly of Mealamu in the past and said he still looked up to the man who has played 143 Super Rugby games and 93 tests for the All Blacks.
The pair have a similar style of play with both acting as a fourth loose forward and Coles first came to national attention with his pace over 20m in open play when he scored two tries on provincial debut for Wellington in 2007.
"I think he's a lot quicker than me," Mealamu said of his potential apprentice.
"We've got some really good talent coming through and Dane's definitely one of them so he is keeping everyone on our toes as hookers. But we are very blessed and lucky to have that talent in the hooking role."
The All Blacks name their 28-strong squad for the upcoming rugby championship on Sunday.
- APNZBy Daniel Richardson @danrichardson21 Email Daniel