Daniel Carter will be getting his knees muddy for the first time since the All Blacks victorious Tri-Nations campaign tomorrow when he joins a camp preparing for next month's Bledisloe Cup test in Hong Kong and subsequent tour of Great Britain and Ireland.
Carter is to link up with the 25 wider training group members who assembled in Auckland today.
The bulk are in contention are the end of year tour though several players from Canterbury and Wellington, who battle for the national provincial title in the capital on Saturday night, will obviously figure in coach Graham Henry's plans.
Carter has been excused Air NZ Cup duties although he is on standby should current Canterbury first five-eighth options Colin Slade and Hamish Gard break down during training.
Since helping ensure the All Blacks retained the Tri-Nations - and Bledisloe Cup - with another commanding individual performance in Brisbane on September 13, Carter has travelled to France to meet and greet the management and fans of Perpignan, where he will spend a six-month sabbatical after the All Blacks attempt to achieve a third Grand Slam.
He has also opened a clothing outlet in Auckland, where he resides.
There is no doubt Carter and Stephen Donald, providing he recovers from a rib injury, are the cast-iron pivot options for the tour.
Most interest in the four-day camp revolves around the performance of Tanerau Latimer and Scott Waldrom, the specialist openside flanker's seemingly jostling to back up captain Richie McCaw.
Southland loosehead prop Jamie Mackintosh and versatile Waikato loose forward Liam Messam are also in the frame after joining the All Blacks environment for the first time.
Jason Eaton, a 10-test lock, is also back in contention for a second row berth after a solid injury-free campaign with Taranaki.
The camp winds up with a match against a New Zealand Barbarians selection in Auckland on Wednesday afternoon - a 35-man tour party will be named in Wellington on Sunday morning.
An intensive six-match tour starts with the fourth Bledisloe Cup clash in Hong Kong on November 1 before successive tests against Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England.
A midweek fixture to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Munster's 12-0 win over the 1978 Grand Slam-winning team has also been factored three days after the Irish test.