Aaron Cruden could be in line for a shock return to the All Blacks ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

NZME understands the former All Blacks first five is considering returning from France for the end of the 2019 Super Rugby season, and the 2020 season, with the Chiefs.

That would see him become eligible for a black jersey at this year's World Cup, after Damian McKenzie was ruled out of the tournament with a ruptured ACL.

The 30-year-old left the Hamilton franchise after the 2017 season to join French side Montpellier, but with the future of his career in doubt he could make his way back to Kiwi shores.

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Cruden is thought to be weighing up the options for his playing future, with a return to the Chiefs and a move to Glasgow - coached by former Chiefs mentor Dave Rennie - on his radar. He left the Chiefs to join Montpellier on a deal worth €700,000 ($1.17 million) per year, but has struggled to make an impact on the European club scene.

According to Scottish newspaper The Scotsman, Cruden was weighing up the option of opting out of his deal in France a year early and dropping down to £400,000 ($770,000) per season to join Glasgow.

Cruden has featured in just over half of Montpellier's matches this season, having battled inconsistent form and serious injuries.

Recent reports have suggested that Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad was growing increasingly frustrated with Cruden, and would be prepared to let him opt out of his deal early without demanding compensation from his next club.

That could see him act as the All Blacks' saviour, potentially filling the problematic third first-five role at the World Cup, with limited options for the selectors after McKenzie's untimely injury.

Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett. Photo / Getty
Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett. Photo / Getty

Current All Blacks and Chiefs loose forward Sam Cane welcomed the talk of a potential return for Cruden. When asked by Newstalk ZB's Jim Kayes if he sent him a text encouraging to come back to New Zealand, Cane replied: "Might have to follow it up aye ... peer pressure is a wonderful thing."

Chiefs boss Michael Collins was more cautious, saying that Cruden's return is unlikely, but has left the door open for the 50-cap All Black.

"I don't think it's that realistic," Collins told Newstalk ZB of Cruden returning to the Chiefs this season. "In a perfect world, with Damian going down, that would be wonderful but what I understand is he's contracted to his French club and that season doesn't end until May or June.

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"I don't think he'll be back playing for the Chiefs this year."

Aaron Cruden last played for the Chiefs in 2017. Photo / Getty Images
Aaron Cruden last played for the Chiefs in 2017. Photo / Getty Images

Should Cruden decide a return to the Chiefs is the best move for his career, it might not be so straightforward for the club. Collins said Super Rugby sides were required to submit a squad of up to 45 players at the start of the season and "by and large stick to it."

However, Cruden's experience at test level could make him a desirable asset as the All Blacks chase their third straight title. As squads stand, Blues No 10 Otere Black looks to be the likely option to replace McKenzie - but a call to Cruden could prove to be too tempting to turn down.