On an unpleasant day in Auckland, utility back Ma'a Nonu had reason to smile. His fortune had turned only days after he took a phone call explaining his omission from the shadow World Cup squad.
Nonu was called from the Junior All Black training squad for some fitness testing on a niggly groin injury and, after receiving a clearance, was promoted to the All Blacks to prepare for the twin tests against France and the international against Canada.
The midfielder was required because centre Conrad Smith and fullback Mils Muliaina were hampered by hamstring injuries which are likely to remove them from the French tests. Smith aggravated his hamstring strain in club rugby at the weekend while Muliaina hurt himself in training last week.
"Conrad and Mils need time to treat their injuries and we expect they will be available for selection later in the series," said All Blacks coach Graham Henry. "Ma'a gives us additional cover in the midfield and will assemble with the squad next week."
Nonu's elevation came a day after his 25th birthday and soon after the All Black coaching staff agreed that he had been disappointing during the Super 14 series.
When the All Black selectors named their 22-strong reconditioning squad last year, they pointedly left every centre off that list.
As assistant coach Wayne Smith explained, they wanted Isaia Toeava to bulk up and show determined form in the Super 14 while Smith and Nonu needed a lot more matchplay after the end-of-year tour to Europe to push their credentials. In the wash-up, Toeava was a clear standout while neither Smith nor Nonu made much of an impact.
Smith was affected by injury. He damaged his eye socket, missing several games, and then strained his hamstring on return while Nonu was erratic, appearing edgy and almost too anxious to succeed.
Nonu has played 16 tests for the All Blacks and was due to play Samoa this weekend in the Pacific Nations Cup. His place in the squad will be taken by Tane Tuipulotu.
Meanwhile, the All Blacks completed a range of commercial activities yesterday in Auckland when they gathered for the first of a two-day session. They were involved in promotional work and filmed a television commercial for Sky.
They will attend to outfitting and other team-related matters today before Henry and his coaching staff take them through a few classroom sessions before sending them on their way.
The All Blacks will reassemble in Auckland on Sunday for the opening test against France at Eden Park on June 2.
France arrive on Tuesday with a squad drained of many top-line players who are involved in the national club championship finals.