Wellington - The groin injury continuing to trouble Dan Carter may see the All Blacks ace relieved of kicking duties and shunted from flyhalf to inside centre, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen suggested on Wednesday.
VIDEO: Steve Hansen Interview
Such a move for the three Tests against Ireland next month would be bad news for the incumbent number 12s Ma'a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams.
Carter has made a slow recovery from the injury suffered in last year's Rugby World Cup and of his six Super Rugby appearances for the Crusaders this season the last four have all been at inside centre to ease his kicking duties.
The 30-year-old sees the move as temporary and recently wrote in a website column that he had no desire to switch positions late in his career.
But Hansen said that while Carter's best position is flyhalf, if he is not playing to his full potential then a sideways shift is likely.
"DC (Carter) in my mind is the best (flyhalf) in world rugby," Hansen said, answering fans' questions in a video released by the New Zealand Rugby Union.
"Right now, though, he is coming back from a groin injury which is limiting his kicking at the moment so, wisely, the Crusaders are playing him at 12.
"When he comes into our camp if he's able to kick goals then he'll certainly be starting at 10. But through necessity, from time to time he may also have to play 12, depending on what we have on the bench and how that groin is."
Carter's ability to direct play has seen a marked improvement in the Crusaders Super Rugby fortunes after he missed the first five weeks of the season.
But his kicking form was poor in the first two games as he continued to be troubled by the groin and he has since been moved to inside-centre with rookie Tom Taylor taking on the kicking role.
A similar positional switch for the All Blacks would likely see Aaron Cruden recalled to flyhalf, with the prospect of only one midfield back on the bench which could favour the more versatile Williams over Nonu.
Hansen also suggested Richard Kahui, who partners Williams in the centres for the Super Rugby leading Chiefs, could appear at either wing or fullback for the All Blacks.
"We thought he played particularly well (at wing) during the Rugby World Cup," Hansen said, adding he had also played well at 15 earlier this year for the Barbarians "so we'll also consider him for that position."
The All Blacks will have two brief camps in late May before the 30-man squad to play Ireland is named on June 3 with the first Test in Auckland a week later.