Injuries to Richard Kahui and Cory Jane are giving fringe utility backs a little more to work towards at the All Blacks wider training group in Auckland this week.

Kahui, a centre converted into a winger for the All Blacks in the World Cup last year, and Jane, adept at fullback and wing, were certainties for the final squad of 30 for the three-Test Ireland series in June before their injuries.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has said the selectors will probably look for a utility back to replace Jane at next week's camp, but their injuries give a chance to utilities already in the 35-strong training squad such as Ben Smith and Tamati Ellison.

Smith, who has played two Tests for the All Blacks, and Ellison, who has played one, haven't established themselves as regular All Blacks but they have been in good form for the Highlanders and are keen to force their way into the squad of 30.

"Obviously it's unfortunate for those players that they've got some injuries," Smith said.

"If I manage to make that 30 I'd play anywhere, it doesn't matter to me. If it was to be on the wing I'd be happy with that, but first of all I've got to try and make that 30 which is a hard task."

Versatility can restrict some players to bench roles but Ellison says it's worked for him in the past.

"I know it helped me at the Hurricanes because we had Conrad (Smith) and Ma'a (Nonu) in the midfield so I played on the wing, but I'm not sure what they've got planned here. I'm just enjoying playing rugby."

Hansen said Hurricanes fullback Andre Taylor was in contention to replace Jane but no decision was likely to be announced until Tuesday.

The All Blacks are also assessing hooker Keven Mealamu's calf injury to see if he needs to be replaced for next week's training camp.

NZ Newswire

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