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All week he had to prepare for a debut test that, publicly at least, he didn't know if he'd play in.

Then, just a few minutes into his debut, he dropped one cold and he would be only human if thoughts of a very brief test career had flashed before his eyes.

By the end of the test, however, Hika Elliot had put in what his coach described as a special performance and must be a chance at least to retain the No 2 jersey for the test against Ireland in six days.

"It was a bit odd, not knowing if I was going to play or not," Elliot admitted. "On the one hand I was delighted and happy that I might get a start, but I was feeling for Kevvie [Mealamu]."

Elliot, 23, had spent the 160 playing minutes of the tour up till Murrayfield sitting on the bench wearing a No 16 jersey he wouldn't get a chance to get dirty. Mealamu's four-week suspension and Andrew Hore's lack of match fitness opened the way for Elliot's debut, but he remained bracketed while Mealamu appealed.

In the end it, was a partial victory for Mealamu, down from four weeks to a fortnight, and strange relief for Elliot.

He made the most of his chance with a bustling performance that caught the eye of Graham Henry.

"In his first test match, he was pretty special and he will be delighted with the way he played ... he handled the pressure well," Henry said.

For Elliot, he set himself a simple measure by which to gauge his outing.

"I just had a clear focus that I had to perform well at set-piece time," Elliot said. "When your set-piece is functioning well you can focus on other parts of your game.

"There were a few nerves, to be honest, but to get that first scrum, that first lineout, that first ball carry out of the way was good."

Elliot's lineout throwing was a feature, a skill he honed as a shooting forward, in basketball.

There is no guarantee Elliot will get a start on Saturday, though he should be assured of a second cap at some point, with Mealamu's suspension.

Hore played 20 minutes off the bench and the selectors might feel he is worth starting at Lansdowne Rd.

At the very least, Elliot has given them comfort in knowing there's no panic one way or the other.