All Blacks centre Conrad Smith is set to make his return from injury when Wellington host Manawatu on Friday.
Smith has been sidelined with a broken thumb, sustained in New Zealand's second Test against England in Dunedin on June 14, and is keen to get some game-time ahead of the All Blacks' Rugby Championship opener against the Wallabies in Sydney on August 16.
He plans to play 40 minutes of the ITM Cup warm-up match with Manawatu and also wants some action when the All Blacks face North Harbour and Northland in a practice game of three halves in Albany next weekend.
''I've been playing long enough so hopefully two halves of rugby will be enough to get me back up to speed,'' he told Fairfax Media.
''I've had a bit of a break. It's never bad when you've been playing for a while. You try to make the most of it. I enjoyed getting away from the game for a couple of weeks and being able to do some fitness work.
''The first couple of weeks I couldn't do much but the last fortnight I've been able to run around and train and I'm now hoping to get a game on Friday and get back into things.''
The 77-Test veteran is coming to the end of his current contract but is feeling refreshed after going on a sabbatical at the end of 2013 and is confident of signing a new deal with the New Zealand Rugby Union soon.
''It's pretty straight forward,'' said Smith.
''They gave me a bit of time. I just wanted to see how I'd handle another year in the game, particularly after my break last year, and I've loved it.
"Everything has been pretty positive. If I can see I can add value to the team then I'm keen to stick around so it's a bit of a formality."