Wellington - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is confident captain Richie McCaw will seamlessly fit into the New Zealand team when he returns for the Rugby Championships in August after missing the three-Test series against France.
McCaw sat out the French series, won 3-0 by New Zealand, as part of a "sabbatical" agreed with the New Zealand Rugby Union and designed to prolong his international career beyond his current 116 tests by minimizing physical wear and tear.
The 32-year-old flanker hasn't played a test this year - his last being the All Blacks' loss to England at Twickenham last November - but Hansen said he is confident McCaw will be fully fit when he takes the field in New Zealand's first Rugby Championships match against Australia on August 17.
McCaw will make his comeback in matches for his local club side in its purely amateur competition in Christchurch over the next few weeks. He has maintained his fitness during his absence from the field and Hansen said he was confident McCaw would be both mentally and physically ready to return to test rugby.
"He's got seven weeks before the first test," Hansen said. "He'll start to really ramp it up.
"Now he's at the phase where he's getting into contact and working on his ball skills. Speaking to him last night, he's itching to go," he added. "We don't have to worry too much about his mental capabilities. He proved that during the World Cup and time and time again he has shown that he doesn't take too long to jump back into the saddle."