Emergency test candidate Dillon Hunt has revealed what the All Blacks told him to work on and believes he has achieved a pass mark.
The 23-year-old Hunt has surged into prominence as All Black coach Steve Hansen contemplates how to cover for the loss of Sam Cane, who suffered a neck fracture against South Africa in Pretoria.
With Matt Todd seemingly marooned in Japan and Blake Gibson injured, Hunt is the clear favourite to go from fringe candidate to Ardie Savea's No. 7 back-up.
Hunt played a few minutes for the All Blacks against a French combination last year, and former coach John Hart is one who believes that makes him a shoe-in for full selection on the upcoming Japan/northern hemisphere tour.
Hunt told Radio Sport he wanted to concentrate on North Harbour's final Mitre 10 Cup round clash against Auckland at Eden Park on Sunday afternoon.
But Hunt revealed the All Blacks wanted him to work on skills and become more dominant in tackles.
"You've always got your work ons but I'm happy with where things are at, and the transition from Otago to North Harbour," said Highlanders forward Hunt, who was schooled at Westlake Boys High.
"It is very unfortunate for Sam (Cane) — I was with the team last year but I'm just trying to keep my head down and we've got a job to do this weekend.
"There is a lot of speculation going on but there is no point in getting carried away with it and I will try not to feel any extra pressure.
"More dominance on my defence, making enough tackles but also being a bit more dominant, a bit of skill work - those messages came through form different coaches.
"I've been working pretty hard at those and hopefully it pays off and they see the work has been done.
"I feel I've made some gains in those places, and it's a matter of getting confidence in those areas.
"It is good to play Mitre 10 Cup where you get more time and space to practice those things before potentially going to a higher level."
Hunt said he had been "in and out" of the All Black camps this year. He had little contact with the All Black coaches apart from that, and had no recent calls from them.
"We'll get through this week and see what happens from there," he said.
"This (Battle of the Bridge) is the biggest game of the season. There is a bit of history between the two teams, especially for the guys who have been around for a while. There will be no shortage of motivation."