Injured All Black Conrad Smith says he will back himself to return to the international game after eye surgery without a tune-up match for Wellington in the ITM Cup.
The Hurricanes skipper has a meeting with his specialist next week and still wants to play for the All Blacks when they meet Argentina in Wellington on September 8.
"I see the specialist next week, that'll be six weeks since the operations, so hopefully he can give me a good report and then it's just a matter of trying again and getting comfortable about playing," Smith said.
"Hopefully it shouldn't be too long provided I get the all clear from the specialist.
"When you've played a bit, you don't really need a lot of practice. I think I could be good enough - or well prepared enough - to play a test match. But I'd also love to play for the Lions. I think it just depends on timings."
Wellington host Hawke's Bay in the capital next Tuesday night and meet Southland at Westpac Stadium on Sunday, September 2, just six days before the All Blacks are scheduled to meet the Pumas.
A six-day turnaround between matches could be seen as short given Smith's six-week lay-off after he underwent two surgeries following the conclusion of the Hurricanes' Super Rugby campaign, plus All Blacks coach Steve Hansen may not want him risked before a test.
But Hansen will be hoping Smith is given the all-clear to meet Argentina given Sonny Bill Williams' impending departure from New Zealand rugby will leave the All Blacks' midfield with a giant hole in it.
Williams and Ma'a Nonu have been named again to form a makeshift midfield combination for tomorrow night's test match against Australia in Auckland but Smith's return would allow Nonu to move back to his preferred second-five role.
- APNZBy Daniel Richardson @danrichardson21 Email Daniel