All Blacks first-five Beauden Barrett is back training with the Hurricanes and could be a surprise addition to the team who will face the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.
Barrett returned to the squad yesterday after an extended break following his wedding in Auckland last month and honeymoon overseas.
As a senior All Black he has had a late start to this season written into his contract but he said it was touch and go as to whether he will play against younger brother Scott, who had a big game for the defending champions in round one against the Blues in Auckland.
"I'm not sure if I'm playing this week – we're still going through that," Barrett told Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave in an interview that will be broadcast this afternoon. "I returned to training on Monday so I'm still pretty fresh. It has been a good time off."
Barrett, facing up to a long and important season with the Hurricanes and All Blacks, will make the decision as to whether he is ready to play alongside head coach John Plumtree. Crusaders All Blacks Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read and Codie Taylor have similar clauses in their contracts and didn't play against the Blues at Eden Park.
If Barrett does play – and an impact role off the bench seems the most likely given his lack of match fitness – he could negotiate another game off later in the season.
The Hurricanes will be determined to continue their winning start to the season after they sneaked home 20-19 against the Waratahs in Sydney last weekend and derby wins are effectively worth double as they deny the opposition valuable points. Conference leaders at the end of the round-robin are guaranteed a place in the play-offs.
Barrett said he was physically and mentally refreshed after his time away and had trained in an attempt to retain his fitness. "I did what I could – [the break] was good for balance," he said. "Obviously the seasons are getting long and I needed to refresh. I had to maintain and keep fit over that period."
He said his side were pleased with their winning start against the Waratahs and had learned some important lessons. Fletcher Smith started at No10 in Barrett's absence, with TJ Perenara having to take over their late in the game following an injury to James Marshall.
"We're pretty happy with the outcome," Barrett said. "Obviously we've learned a bit over these last few days and we're pretty excited about this weekend against the Crusaders. That Waratahs team on their day in Sydney can beat anyone so we'll certainly take that.
Barrett, who said he was impressed with the Blues' performance in their narrow defeat to the Crusaders, said one of his major areas of improvement this season was his tactical awareness. "The Hurricanes have this tag of being a team of flair and X-factor... I'd like to control that and tactically improve. That comes with a lot of analysis and pretty much how you relate to your team."
And he added the World Cup in Japan in September was far from this thoughts. "As players we're solely focused on the Super Rugby season. It's all the media noise that diverts us as players, to be honest."