Francis Saili may not yet be the finished product, but he's caught the eye of All Black stalwart Conrad Smith.
Smith played outside of Saili during the All Blacks' training matches against Canterbury and Wellington on Friday evening, with regular inside centre, Ma'a Nonu, ruled out by an ankle injury.
Saili had a mixed evening, producing some moments of brilliance but also examples of poor judgment. While the 22-year-old may still have improvements to make, Smith is backing him to go on to shine in the All Black jersey.
"He's great. He's young and he loves having a crack. He's very handy and he'll be a better player for that experience," Smith told Fairfax News.
"He was with the team early in the year [for the series against France] and didn't get a crack so you could see tonight it really meant a lot to him and I thought he played very well.
"He creates a lot with his footwork and he has a great passing game."
Saili is unlikely to force his way into the All Blacks' starting line-up just yet, with Nonu the preferred option at 12, with Dan Carter also able to cover. Despite this, Smith is backing the Blues man to make an impact at some stage.
"Whether that comes this year or next, or whenever, I'd say he'll get his chance," he said.