Fingers crossed Nehe Milner-Skudder makes it on to the park tonight and shows he's not lost any magic.

In his extended absence, the All Blacks used Ben Smith, Julian Savea, Israel Dagg and Waisake Naholo on the wing. For all their excellence and reputation, none delivered the same thrills as the hot-stepping Skud.

He broke into wider focus with the Hurricanes in 2015 then amped that up even further on debut in the opening Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney and was one of the few All Blacks to impress as he whizzed about the park for two tries.

Part of his appeal was his everyday appearance and quiet manner - he looked like some bloke from a pick-up game down the local park until he began to play. The small man with the dancing feet and magical hands was a throwback to the days of Gerald Davies or Grant Batty whose armoury out on the wing was all about skills and invention to bamboozle bigger rivals.


The Skud's survival and potency lit up 2015 and he finished with eight tries in eight tests for the All Blacks.

It was a remarkable transition for someone who began the year as a rookie fullback for the Hurricanes and ended as a test certainty on the wing - an achievement World Rugby recognised with his award as breakthrough player that year.

Milner-Skudder came from a touch background then had a crack at league with the Bulldogs before switching to rugby with Manawatu and rising to the Canes and All Blacks.

How would he go in his second year of top rugby when many struggle to hold their form?

We never got to find out when Milner-Skudder wrecked his shoulder and left a huge hole in last year's thrill-o-meter.

Noises out of Wellington were that his comeback signs were strong before his hamstring tightened and Milner-Skudder bypassed the Canes opening trip to Japan where they demolished the Sunwolves.

He's been cleared for action tonight and his return and some fine conditions should encourage a decent crowd to visit the Cake Tin when the Hurricanes host the Rebels.

Milner-Skudder has been picked at fullback so will avoid direct conflict with Marika Koroibete who missed trial games and the opening round with a knee problem but shapes as a real prospect after changing codes from the Melbourne Storm NRL franchise.

Ideas about shutting down Milner-Skudder are to challenge his defence in the air or down the short side but if teams overcook those tactics and the Skud stays healthy, they may find they are the ones who get burned.