All Blacks flanker Ardie Savea could be back from knee surgery earlier than first thought, according to his former Wellington Hurricanes coach.
Savea, who was named last week as New Zealand Rugby's Player of the Year, was initially expected to be out of action for up to six months.
However former Hurricanes coach, John Plumtree, told reporters in Auckland the dynamic loose forward could be back within four months.
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Plumtree was elevated into an assistant coaching role with the New Zealand team under new coach Ian Foster on Thursday.
"His operation wasn't as bad as they thought it was going to be, and we're hoping he's going to be right back into the Hurricanes set-up in about three-and-a-half months," Plumtree told Stuff Media.
"That's huge news for the Hurricanes because he is such an important player for them … they won't rush him back if he's not right.
"Initially it was looking close to 5-6 months which is close to season ending. But it's not going to be that long."
Plumtree's move to the All Blacks continued a tumultuous off-season for the 2016 Super Rugby champions after influential All Blacks flyhalf Beauden Barrett chose to join the Auckland Blues.
Savea's injury, which he sustained in the Rugby World Cup semi-final loss to England, and Plumtree's move to the All Blacks, only added to their woes.
Plumtree's former assistant Jason Holland was promoted to the head coaching role at the Hurricanes.
Holland said that a possible transition had been discussed over the last few weeks as they looked ahead to the 2020 Super Rugby season.
"We never really knew what was going to happen," Holland told reporters.
"Nailing our stuff here between Plum and myself has been our focus and that's made this transition a lot easier."