Foster: We can cover for Conrad

Getty Images     02 Aug 2012     Getty Images

Smith, who has been an ever-present at centre for the All Blacks, will miss the two Bledisloe Cup fixtures against Australia after undergoing surgery to repair a detached retina in his left eye.

Chiefs second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams is delaying his departure to Japanese club Panasonic Wild Knights so he can play in Sydney and Auckland, while Blues midfielder Ma'a Nonu and Highlanders pair, Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith, are all being considered for the centre's role.

"It's pretty disappointing losing Conrad for those first two Tests," admitted Foster. "But we're considering a whole lot of options at the moment.

"Once we actually nail the (squad) selection we've got Ma'a who can play there. Tamati and we've also got Sonny who is now available for those first two Tests.

"We are considering Ben Smith in that position. He's played a little bit there before so there are some options for us."

Ellison and Smith are part of a group of 28 players – minus the Chiefs players involved in Saturday's Investec Super Rugby final – taking part in a wider training camp in Wellington this week.

The All Blacks selectors will name their 28-man squad for the Investec Rugby Championship on Sunday.

"A number of guys haven't played for three weeks so it's a chance to get some of the stuff we were working on in June back in their head and get a few markers about where they are sitting physically as well," said Foster after the first training session on Wednesday.

"Clearly with the Chiefs guys out it's not a full squad but it's a chance for us to get guys thinking again about what's coming and, in some ways, get a bit of closure on what they've been doing in their franchise and re-introduce stuff we want to do for the All Blacks."

Not unsurprisingly given the number of years he coached the franchise, Foster was hoping for a Chiefs win against the Sharks in Hamilton on Saturday night – as well as a clean bill of health for the All Blacks players involved.

"I'm delighted with the way they've been playing. It's been fantastic," said Foster of the season which saw the Chiefs finish top of the New Zealand conference and defeat the Crusaders in the semi-final last weekend.

"Last week was a game that was almost like a final. Clearly the Sharks have played some great rugby the last part of this campaign.

"But I'm just really hoping that all the good work the Chiefs have done this year will pay off on Saturday. I really hope they climb that final hurdle.

"We fell one short in 2009 and it would be great to see them make it in 2012."