The All Blacks have received a double batch of good news with Ben Smith declared fit to be considered for selection against Wales and Adam Thomson handed only a one-week ban for stamping.
Smith broke a bone in his cheek playing against Scotland and has been unable to train this week - ruling him out of the Italy test where he was going to start at fullback.
The swelling on his cheek was severe in the 48 hours after the game, but once it reduced, the medical staff were able to better assess him and conclude that he'll be able to play, if needed next week in Cardiff.
Smith's green light is a major relief as his midfield partner from Sunday's clash at Murrayfield, Tamati Ellison, remains in a state of limbo over his immediate playing future. He has a torn ligament in his toe which he incurred early in the test against Scotland.
He could potentially play as doing so wouldn't inflict any long term damage. The problem is that the pain has been severe and he'd have to be able to prove he can run and change direction without it being too sore.
The All Blacks are likely to make a definitive decision on Ellison by Friday morning with the likes of Ryan Crotty and Tom Bateman to come under consideration as replacements.
Thomson is now unlikely to be replaced as he has only been handed a one-week suspension for standing on the head of Scotland flanker Alasdair Strokosch. The Highlanders flanker was not going to play against Italy anyway, but there would have been issues had he been banned for longer. The All Blacks were mulling over a range of possible replacements but were most likely to send for George Whitelock.
His younger brother Luke as well as the likes of Brad Shields and Steven Luatua are considered better prospects and more likely All Blacks but the more experienced Whitelock shaped as the best man for this particular scenario.
The brief would have been tough not likely to play but would have to be ready and able to do so if injuries struck. For that reason, given Whitelock has played a test and has been around for some time, he would have suited the situation better.By Gregor Paul of the Herald on Sunday in Rome