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Until a few months ago, Adam Thomson's dream was simply to be a regular in the Highlanders. Now he's an All Black.

But Thomson has always believed in his ability, so when his name was read out yesterday in Graham Henry's first squad of the year, he didn't pinch himself.

The rangy Otago flanker with the shock of blonde hair spent some quiet time with his parents and brother at home in Ashburton before assembling with the All Blacks in Wellington before Saturday's test against Ireland.

"It's pretty crazy and all very overwhelming," said the 26-year-old shortly after the squad was announced. "I think my Mum is probably more excited than me."

Thomson's rise to test status looked most unlikely in recent years as he was regularly overlooked for the Highlanders. This year he had an explosive impact for the Super 14 strugglers, both starting and off the bench. He displayed a remarkable turn of pace for a big man and a good nose for the tryline. His selection ahead of rising Crusaders' blindside flanker Kieran Read surprised some but Thomson never doubted he was good enough to play at the top.

"Getting in the All Blacks is a dream come true but I've always had the belief in myself that I could play at an elite level. There was a chance that I might have looked overseas or at another province, but I love Otago and playing for the Highlanders."

Thomson is a specialist blindside but there are hints he will also be viewed as an openside option to back up captain Richie McCaw.