MELBOURNE :All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith's international season may be over after he elected to stay home in New Zealand for the birth of his second child, while captain Sam Cane is in a race to be fit for the team's northern hemisphere tour.
Test centurion Smith will miss the rest of the Rugby Championship in Australia and may not link up with the squad when they head north to the United States and Europe, he said on Wednesday.
Smith's baby is not due until November but he is concerned he may not be able to return home quickly from Australia if hotel quarantine beds are in short supply as part of New Zealand's COVID-19 restrictions.
He will instead play in New Zealand's domestic NPC competition.
"The door isn't completely closed to me joining the (All Blacks) team for the northern tour if our baby comes early," the 32-year-old said in a team release.
"In this environment anything can happen so I've got an open mind."
Flanker Cane, out of action since March due to a torn pectoral muscle and other complications, is training with his provincial side but may not be ready to play for three-four weeks, Bay of Plenty coach Daryl Gibson told New Zealand radio.
A longer recovery could jeopardise his planned return for the Oct. 23 clash against the United States in Washington.
All Blacks flyhalf Richie Mo'unga arrived in Australia on Wednesday to start a 14-day quarantine, having stayed home for the birth of his child
The All Blacks finish the season in Europe with tests against Wales, Italy, Ireland and France.
Top of the Rugby Championship table with three straight wins, the All Blacks play a second match against Argentina in Brisbane on Saturday, following their 39-0 win over the Pumas on the Gold Coast.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Stephen Coates/Peter Rutherford)