Dual international Sonny Bill Williams will be considered for the New Zealand's end of year tour if he is fit and in top form.
That is the word from All Blacks coach Steve Hansen who said time was a factor less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup. Hansen feels Williams' return to the All Blacks will depend on his condition when he returns from the Sydney Roosters' NRL campaign and whether he manages to play some part for Counties Manukau in the ITM Cup.
Hansen admitted that he hoped Williams' return to Test rugby is sooner rather than later.
''There is no doubt he's an exceptional rugby player and if he's available then we'd be foolish not to look at him, but we have to take into account he's come off a big season,'' Hansen told Fairfax Media.
''We have to take a whole lot of things into consideration before we make a decision. What's right for Sonny? What's right for the team?
''Next year's a bit different because we don't have the June series and if we can't use him [as much] going into the World Cup then if we can have that opportunity [at the end of this year] to spend time with him then that would be good.''
Next year's Rugby Championship will see New Zealand playing just four Tests against against Argentina, South Africa and Australia (twice). The All Blacks will also face Samoa in a midweek Test in July during April.
Williams returns to rugby union after two years in the NRL and so little Tests provides a pressure-packed window for him before the World Cup.
''It's all up in the air until we know when we'll have him back here and can see how he's going, so there's no point now getting too carried away with it,'' added Hansen.
''He's giving his all for the Roosters at the moment and it will depend on what happens with them. Does he come through injury-free? Do they go to the finals or get knocked out early?
''I see he has expressed a desire to come over and play for Counties and make himself eligible for the end of year tour and if that all eventuates then we will have to look at it.''
The All Blacks will be hoping that Williams comes through the NRL unscathed.
That is because to qualify for selection for the end of year tour he must play for Counties in the ITM Cup and could have a very small window in which to do so.
The Roosters' campaign could finish as early as September 4, but if they reach the NRL final it could be as late as October 5.
If the latter, then Williams may have only two possible chances to play for Counties. They face Auckland in Pukekohe on October 8 and Tasman in Blenheim on October 12.
If the Steelers reach ITM Cup's knockout stages then Williams could also be in action in semi-finals and final before the All Blacks 31-man squad for the to to the USA and Europe is named.