Hurricanes assistant coach John Plumtree has confirmed his team never expected to field their leading All Blacks for the upcoming Brisbane Tens.
Promoters Duco Events have used current All Blacks Israel Dagg, Jerome Kaino and Damian McKenzie to promote the inaugural event at Suncorp Stadium on February 11-12, inferring that the top New Zealand players would be on show.
But this week, it was confirmed that players who toured the Northern Hemisphere last November would be ineligible to play, while they served a mandated 12-week stand-down between seasons.
Earlier yesterday, 2015 All Blacks sensation Nehe Milner-Skudder confirmed he would contest the Tens, having missed most of last season with a shoulder injury, while development members of that end-of-year squad - Jordie Barrett and Vaea Fifita - were also likely inclusions on the Hurricanes roster.
But Plumtree insists stars such as Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, TJ Perenara and the Savea brothers would not take the field.
"We were never led to believe that we were taking any All Blacks, to be honest," he told Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave.
"We've got a couple of well-known players that are coming with us, like Brad Shields and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, but we were never told that we were ever able to take any All Blacks.
"We think we've got a pretty good team without them, to be honest."
The frontline All Blacks will return to Super Rugby camps next week and Plumtree hinted they would be in no condition to take on the fast-paced style of game expected at Brisbane.
"I think the All Blacks coming back into it aren't quite fit enough yet, certainly not compared to the other boys that have been training for two-and-a-half months.
"I think it will be a really good tournament with the players that are fit and skilful, and ready to go, which won't be the All Blacks, because they haven't been doing the work.
"Obviously they want the best players they can have at the Tens, but having a lot of tired All Blacks, tired Australians or tired South Africans is not going to do the tournament any good."
Another former All Black confirmed for the Tens is veteran winger Cory Jane, who has recently returned from an off-season stint in Japan.
"From a conditioning point of view, [the Tens] is going to be good, but obviously it's a totally different game to what we'll be playing in a few weeks in Japan [in the Hurricanes' Super Rugby opener against the Sunwolves].
"I think the boys will enjoy a bit of a break from mundane training, and will go across and have a bit of fun. The boys will go ahead and express themselves, and I don't think there will be too much kicking."
Milner-Skudder, who has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby, the Hurricanes and Manawatu until the end of 2019, confirmed he was eager to take the field as soon as possible, after the disappointments of 2016.
"There's been plenty of chat, but my situation is different from some of the other boys," he says. "I'm good to go and put my hand up for the Tens. I'm pretty pumped for it - something new, having less players on the field, so that will be good for outside backs like me."