WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Nehe Milner-Skudder’s return to Super Rugby may prove to have come too late to earn him a place in the All Blacks squad for the British and Irish Lions tests, but the electric winger is just pleased to be playing again after an injury-plagued year.
The 26-year-old, a member of New Zealand’s 2015 World Cup winning squad, spent virtually all of last season recovering from shoulder surgery then broke his foot in just his second game back nearly three months ago.
He returned with a 25-minute performance off the bench in the Wellington Hurricanes’ 34-12 victory over the Western Force in Perth on Saturday and said it was great to be back.
“It was unreal,” he told local media on Sunday. “Just the whole week, flying over and ... then getting a wee 20-minute cameo off the bench ... was great.”
Prior to his foot injury, Milner-Skudder had been a virtual lock to come back into the All Blacks squad for the Lions series.
Coach Steve Hansen and his fellow selectors tend to give players returning from injury the benefit of the doubt if they are fit enough to play.
However, while the All Blacks coaches have been in contact with him about his recovery, he recognised he may not have played enough to prove his fitness before Hansen names his squad on Thursday for the three-test series, which starts on June 24.
”It’s somewhat comforting to know I‘m still on the radar,“ he added. ”I guess all will be revealed on Thursday.
“I obviously would’ve liked to be playing a few more games for the Hurricanes this year but injuries, those things happen, so it’s out of my control really.”
Even if he misses out on a berth in Hansen’s squad he could still face the Lions, with local media tipping him to be named in Colin Cooper’s Maori All Blacks side to face the tourists in Rotorua on June 17.
The Maori side is also named on Thursday.
The Hurricanes are also the last Super Rugby side to face the Lions with their clash on June 27 coming four days before the second test in Wellington.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford