Wellington - Injured All Blacks centre Conrad Smith will make his return to the field after recovering from a broken thumb in a rare outing for his provincial side Wellington on Friday.
The 32-year-old injured the thumb during last month's Test series against England and missed the third match, with rookie Malakai Fekitoa making his first start at centre in the 36-13 victory.
Smith was named in Steve Hansen's All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship on Monday, indicating he would be available for the first clash against Australia in Sydney on August 16.
The 77-cap Smith, however, will work his way back to match fitness by appearing for Wellington against Manawatu in a pre-season provincial match on Friday.
Smith has played just 38 matches for Wellington since making his debut in 2004.
He will then play in the All Blacks' 'game of three halves' next week in Auckland, where the test squad will play 40 minutes each against provincial sides North Harbour and Northland, who then play one half of rugby against each other.
"Hopefully two halves of rugby will be enough to get me back up to speed," he told Fairfax Media in Auckland at an All Blacks camp.
"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."