Having made himself unavailable to the All Blacks ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Liam Squire hasn't ruled out a return to the Black jersey.
The blindside flanker is set to make his Super Rugby comeback with the Highlanders in 2021 after being named in their squad on Wednesday having returned early from Japan's DoCoMo Red Hurricanes.
Questioned whether he is eyeing a spot in the All Blacks squad Squire said the dream was "definitely not over".
"It's something that does burn in the back of my mind," Squire said. "But for me, I sort of don't look too far ahead. Making the Highlanders squad is the number one priority. They've got a lot of depth in the loose forwards so it's going to be exciting and challenging in that aspect."
Squire last played for the Highlanders in 2019 and has been back in New Zealand rehabilitating an injury after a brief stint playing in Japan. He played 33 games for the franchise in four seasons but injuries limited him to just three games in 2019 which led to him making himself unavailable to the All Blacks.
Squire could have gone back to Japan or chased a big money deal overseas, but he feels he has unfinished business in New Zealand rugby.
"It wasn't planned to come back to New Zealand so early, but I had to come back early for knee surgery. When we were locked down I was told to get my hip fixed after lock down and it was good to get that done, but it pushed my rehab back and I couldn't go back to Japan.
"I decided to stay in New Zealand after the hip surgery and how I was feeling. I felt like I had a bit left in New Zealand and staying home and playing Super Rugby again is exciting and I've sort of been refreshed and had a second wind."
"This year's been quite tough but it's also given me a chance to get all those injuries taken care of. I haven't had the chance to get a good pre-season done where I've focused on what I need to strengthen so I'm heading in the right direction, not 100 per cent yet but we're definitely building so I think come Super Rugby I'll be hitting my strides.
"I've got high standards of where I want to get to coming back."