Tim Brown has been given the green light to link up with his New Zealand team-mates in South Africa after recovering from a shoulder injury.
The All Whites vice-captain's World Cup dream appeared shattered when he fractured his shoulder during a friendly against Australia in the build-up to the tournament.
The 29-year-old underwent surgery two weeks ago to insert three screws into his damaged right shoulder and was told to expect a recovery period of six weeks.
However, Brown has regained fitness three weeks ahead of schedule and is set to fly out to South Africa on Thursday.
A final decision on whether to replace him in the squad is expected to be made once he joins up with the team and is given one last assessment by the All Whites medical staff.
Wellington's Cole Peverley, who has been called up on standby for Brown, has been training with the squad and will stay in South Africa as injury cover.
Coach Ricki Herbert has said he will give Brown as long as possible to prove his fitness, and is delighted to welcome him back into the squad.
"We're thankful for the surgeon Stu Walsh and the medical staff that looked after him for doing a tremendous job," said Herbert.
"He has apparently come through everything so well."
New Zealand will play a final warm-up match against Chile on Wednesday before opening their World Cup campaign against Slovakia on 15th June.
The All Whites then take on Italy five days later before wrapping up their Group F games against Paraguay on 24th June.