Star New Zealand centre Tana Umaga's hopes of playing again in the World Cup soared when he emerged unscathed from the toughest training session since his knee injury.
The All Blacks vice-captain completed a 45-minute running and agility session at training with no ill effects, and the 53-Test veteran said he was a distinct possibility to play in New Zealand's quarter-final a week Saturday - just four weeks after rupturing his posterior cruciate ligament in the opening game against Italy.
"I'm walking fully on it, running fully on it and it's taking all my weight, so I'm very happy where I'm at now, and hopefully it's just going to get better," said Umaga.
"It has been very frustrating. It's never great being
injured, but in saying that you don't want to project that frustration through the team.
"I've been really determined to recover in time to play some more part in this World Cup. But the support from the guys has also been great and it's really lifted my enthusiasm to get back out there and help them."
Meanwhile, the All Blacks are also hoping to have lock Chris Jack, center Aaron Mauger and half-back Byron Kelleher back in time to face Wales this Sunday.
Jack sprained his ankle in a lineout drill last weekend and missed the victory over Tonga while Kelleher looks to have recovered from pulling a hamstring ahead of the game against Canada.
Kelleher said: "It was probably one of the most frustrating injuries I've had in rugby. I was probably too fizzed up on the sideline and strode out one too many times but it tests your character to see how fast you can come back.
"The vibe is definitely starting to build. The boys know they are coming up to the knockout stage and it's crucial to just leave everything you've got on the field."