Wellington - New Zealand captain Richie McCaw says he can't put a date on his return to top rugby from the foot injury which dogged his Rugby World Cup campaign and has kept him out of the first eight rounds of the Super Rugby.
Optimistic reports suggested McCaw might play his first match since last October's World Cup final when the Canterbury Crusaders meet the Stormers in a Super Rugby match on Saturday.
But McCaw said on Thursday he may be as much a month away from returning, after his most recent surgery to have two small screws removed from a bone in his right foot. His World Cup campaign last year was hampered by the injury which caused pain and severe swelling.
"The next couple of weeks I will build into full training and then, I guess, we will make a decision from there," he said.
"There's no pain. It's the lungs more than anything that are going to be the tricky one but that's what the next couple of weeks are about. Before I play, I need to make sure I can do the job fitness-wise."
The All Blacks hope McCaw will be able to return soon enough to have some matchplay under his belt before it's June test series against Ireland. New Zealand has already lost McCaw's regular backrow partner Jerome Kaino who took up a contract in Japan after a shoulder injury ended his Super 15 season.