Sir Graham Henry believes the All Blacks could use Dan Carter's experience at this year's World Cup – especially after the loss of utility back Damian McKenzie.
McKenzie's season-ending injury, a ruptured ACL likely ruling him out of the tournament in September, has left the All Blacks scrambling for a replacement, threatening to expose their depth at first-five.
Speaking to Jim Kayes, Henry said McKenzie will be difficult to replace.
"It's a big [loss]. He's a fabulous little player," said the former All Blacks coach. "I just love watching him play. He's such an enthusiast, he just loves playing the game.
"When you love playing the game and you've got his sort of skill, and athleticism he's a really special player. So he's going to be difficult to replace and the search will be on because I think the All Blacks selectors will pick three guys who can play 10."
While acknowledging the rise of younger, more inexperienced first-fives like Crusaders' Brett Cameron as a potential replacement, Henry also pointed to two-time World Cup winner Carter as an option not to be ignored.
"There's been some talk about Dan Carter and I don't think Dan Carter will let you down," said Henry, who led the All Blacks to a World Cup win in 2011. "I know that he played in the final of the Japanese competition and played outstandingly.
"He could be a possibility too. It's just obviously they have to qualify and they have to be playing and signed in this country to be available for the All Blacks."
Henry said having Carter at the World Cup would provide invaluable experience to the All Blacks side, and would even benefit current first-fives Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga.
"Well you know, he's been there and done that. He would be number three and I think he fits comfortably in that position. And he'll add a huge amount of experience and intellectual property about the Rugby World Cup and playing international rugby.
"I'm sure he'll be good for Beaudy and Richie if he was there. And who knows. But it sounds like there's a lot of work going on behind the scenes which obviously will happen."
A sensational return for Carter could prove challenging, however, after recently undergoing neck surgery.