Competition within the All Blacks will lift another level this week as two of the most experienced squad members prepare to return from injury.
Anton Lienert-Brown and Ardie Savea are yet to be sighted in victories over Tonga and Fiji this month but both influential figures are expected to return for the All Blacks' third test in Hamilton against Fiji on Saturday.
Chiefs midfielder Lienert-Brown had minor elbow surgery following Super Rugby and remains on track for his original return date. Lienert-Brown could be in line to replace Rieko Ioane at centre and team up with David Havili in the midfield after he impressed at second five-eighth in his first test for four years with two tries against Fiji.
The All Blacks could, alternatively, pair Lienert-Brown with Chiefs teammate Quinn Tupaea after his solid debut against Tonga last week.
Hurricanes captain Savea reinjured the same knee he damaged earlier this year and has, likewise, been held back from bolstering the loose forward stocks already missing All Blacks captain Sam Cane.
Chiefs lock Tupou Vaa'i is the only other member of the original 36-man squad yet to be used with the All Blacks carrying five second-rowers.
After battling to the 57-23 victory over Fiji in Dunedin on Saturday night, the All Blacks called in Chiefs prop Aidan Ross as cover for Karl Tu'inukuafe who is struggling with a shoulder complaint.
Elsewhere in the front row Hurricanes hooker Asafo Aumua is thought to have overcome the concussion he suffered against Tonga.
All Blacks assistant coach Brad Mooar confirmed Lienert-Brown, Savea and Vaa'i were likely to feature in the second test against Fiji, but noted Dalton Papalii's calf injury was a "slow burn".
With Papalii unlikely to feature this week Savea would be a natural fit to slot in his favoured No 7 jersey after the All Blacks were forced to play Ethan Blackadder out of position.
Luke Jacobson could replace Hoskins Sotutu and start at No 8, where he impressed against Tonga, with Blackadder, Akira Ioane and Shannon Frizell in line to contest the six role.
"Anton, Ardie and Tupou are tracking superbly and have taken more and more part of training as the week has gone on so it will be good to see them start to put more into it," Mooar said.
"For us as coaches it's great that a number of guys who haven't had a game for a while have now played and we've worked the whole squad – all those who have been available – into the jersey.
"I see in excess of 30 guys ready to put the jersey on so competition for places is outstanding. When you make that many changes and still look at the team that ran out and think 'jeez that's top line side', we're in a pretty good space there."
Damian McKenzie is the only other minor injury concern after dislocating his finger against Fiji.
"He had a stubborn dislocation on his ring finger which probably explains why he hasn't managed to put a ring on it yet," Mooar said. "It looked a bit nasty but he went off and had it dealt with at the hospital. There's no break in it which is superb. It's strapped up so he'll have to try and keep it straight."
Beauden Barrett had stitches in his eye lid post-match after copping Brodie Retallick's boot to the face.
"There's a good bit of stitching, a bit of handiwork done there, but he'll be fine when they come out."
Mooar reiterated the focus will be on fixing the breakdown flaws Fiji frequently exposed but praised some of the All Blacks' attacking execution from set piece.
"There's been a fair bit of chat about stuff we've identified - talking about physicality and what not, but the physicality was there. It's more about winning the race, beating the opposition to the breakdown and making good decisions.
"If I was playing us I would be pinging into that space as well and wanting to slow that type of ball down."
Despite emerging from quarantine and having two full training runs together, Fiji dominated the All Blacks for large periods in Dunedin. While, in theory at least, they should improve further with a full week to prepare, recovering from a torrid battle now presents a different challenge.
"These guys are outstanding athletes; they're big, athletic, well-conditioned players who are in top clubs in Europe," Mooar said. "They're playing high level footy and they're playing in a test match so they're going to bring that physicality and intent – as do we.
"I'm sure they're nursing some bruised bodies and are looking forward to getting back into it in Hamilton. But for us there's no surprises in that. Everybody lifts their game for the All Blacks. It's an exciting week ahead."