New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster has confirmed that captain Kieran Read is on course to return from injury in time for Saturday's opening Test against the British and Irish Lions.
Read has been sidelined for almost two months after breaking his thumb while on Super Rugby duty for the Crusaders.
However, the number eight is now in the final stages of his recovery and Foster expects him to be fit in time for the weekend's clash at Eden Park.
"Firstly, he didn't want to miss [the first Test]. He is desperate to play. He is our leader, so that's natural. Secondly, the diagnosis has always been that he was going to be due to play this game, and we have been monitoring that progress versus the initial diagnosis," Foster told reporters.
"It was a little bit touch and go for last week [against Samoa] whether there was a chance to get him a few minutes under his belt. It didn't happen, but we are pretty satisfied. He has had his first real solid hit-out with contact and everything, and hopefully he comes through that really well by the end of the day, and then it becomes a reasonably easy decision.
"He has been a big part of the leadership group for a long time now, and just the way he grew into the [captaincy] role last year. The biggest accolade I can give him is the way he grew people around him. He has a very inclusive leadership style, encourages a lot of decision-making from the group around him and earned a lot of respect for that. To have Reado back would be a real boost for us."
Read, who took over the captaincy from Richie McCaw following the 2015 Rugby World Cup, has won 97 caps for the All Blacks.