New Zealand captain Sam Cane is winning his fitness battle and is in line to face Ireland in November.
Named last week in the All Blacks touring squad for games against the USA, Italy, Wales, Ireland and France, Cane played for third-tier provincial side King Country in the Heartland Championship on Saturday and emerged unscathed.
Andy Farrell's side will host New Zealand on Saturday 13 November (7pm), the second game of an autumn series that also includes Tests against Japan and Argentina at the Aviva (all games live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player).
Cane suffered a pectoral injury that required surgery while playing for the Waikato Chiefs in Super Rugby Aotearoa last March and also underwent treatment on a shoulder issue.
In his absence Ian Foster's side won the Rugby Championship with Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Ardie Savea all covering captaincy duties for the injured flanker.
"I've had a bad run with two major surgeries in three years, but in 2020 I had a great year and not for one minute did I think this is not what I want to be doing," 29-year-old Cane told SENZ Radio.
"I was focused on getting back and still feel like I've got plenty to offer.
"It's...about getting back in the environment and training at that level of intensity the All Blacks do and getting a read off that.
"But it sort of makes sense, that game against the United States [23 October, Washington] will be a pretty good sort of ease back into Test footy."
Cane, who made his international debut in a 22-19 win over Ireland in 2012 and has won five of his 74 caps against the Irish, reckons his team have improved.
"They've taken a step up from last year," said Cane.
"A real strength is the depth that's been built and internal competition for places.
"We've seen growth in a lot of guys in terms of leadership and having to step up with guys away...I think we're in a much better place than last year and hopefully we can keep improving on this tour."
Follow Ireland's November internationals v Japan, New Zealand and Argentina via our live blogs on RTÉ.ie/sport or the RTÉ News app, or watch live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player. Live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1.