Wellington - All Black flank Sam Cane will complete a remarkable comeback from a broken neck when he plays for Chiefs, giving All Black selectors a timely Rugby World Cup boost.
Eight months after Cane was stretchered off during an All Blacks-South Africa Test in Pretoria last October, the Chiefs named the 27-year-old on the bench for Saturday's match against the Blues in Auckland (kick-off 09:35 SA time).
While not starting the match, the Chiefs indicated Cane will be given game-time during the North Island derby.
"Cane will take the field for the first time this Super Rugby season," the Chiefs said in a statement.
Cane fractured a vertebra in a collision with South African Francois Louw during the All Blacks' 32-30 win over the Springboks last October.
He escaped nerve damage which could have paralysed him but faced the prospect of the bone not healing properly, a problem which has ended the careers of some players who suffered similar injuries.
Cane's return will give the All Blacks more options at flanker for the World Cup in Japan, with his defensive mettle complementing rival openside Ardie Savea's attacking prowess.
The 60-Test All Black admitted earlier this month that the injury was "scary" and he was well aware its impact could have been much more serious.
But he denied fears about re-injuring his neck could inhibit his game, saying his medical team had cleared him to re-join the fray with total commitment.
"There will always be things you might get slightly wrong but the surgeon is not going to send me out there unless he's 100 percent sure," Cane told stuff.co.nz.
"In a funny way my neck should actually be stronger as I've got two vertebrae fused together with a bit of metal wrapped around them."
15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (co-captain), 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (co-captain), 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman
Substitutes: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Lua Li, 18 Karl Tu'inukuafe, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tom Robinson, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Otere Black, 23 Matt Duffie
15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (captain), 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Pita Gus Sowakula, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Jesse Parete, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli
Substitutes: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Mitchell Jacobson, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Shaun Stevenson, 23 Alex Nankivell