All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has made it clear Kalyn Ponga's admiration for the rugby union world champions is reciprocated.
Emerging as the brightest new face of the NRL, Ponga rang alarm bells in rugby league this week when he discussed the possibility of trying to play for the All Blacks in future.
Asked on Thursday if 20-year-old Ponga – who described the All Blacks as the best sporting organisation in the world – was on his radar, Hansen made no bones about it.
"You've got to be aware of him, he's a special player," Hansen said. "I quite like watching league.
"I've got a son that plays it and therefore I'm interested in it and he's [Ponga] had a super Origin.
"He's a Kiwi boy and he's just come out and said maybe one day he might want to come and play rugby.
"So if that's his choice when he makes that choice, then of course whoever's around at that time would definitely be interested because he's a talented athlete."
Speaking as his all-conquering team prepared for the second Bledisloe Cup Test against the Wallabies, Hansen was asked if he watched the NRL for talent or waited for players to come across to rugby union first?
"I watch all sport. I probably watch more [other] sport than I do rugby," he said.
"I see rugby every Saturday so it's nice to look at something different and pinch their ideas. There's a lot of things we can learn off each other and I don't say that disrespectfully to rugby.
"That's what I do for a job.
"So to get some light relief or down time, apart from my family, I look at sport.”
Ponga, in the first season of a four-year deal with the Knights, expressed interest in a TV interview earlier this week in the prospect of switching codes to rugby union.
He said in a radio interview on Thursday that while he would keep his “options open” when he comes off contract, in the meantime he was fully committed to performing at his best for Newcastle.
Meanwhile, Ponga could possibly have played his last NRL game this season with the Newcastle superstar in doubt for this weekend's game against Cronulla.
The young gun is racing to be fit for the Knights' round 24 clash at the Sharks on Sunday due to an ongoing ankle complaint.
"He's in a [moon] boot at the moment," Newcastle coach Nathan Brown told reporters on Thursday.
"We'll give him every minute possible until Saturday but I'd be lying if I said he wasn't doubtful."
Ponga was moved from fullback to five-eighth last week due to the injury concern, with the 20-year-old setting up a first-half try in the Knights' shock 20-12 win over Penrith.
Newcastle, sitting 11th and out of finals contention, are wary of allowing their young star to soldier on at less than full health.
"There's going to come a stage sooner or later where he couldn't keep going," Brown said.
"I'm not sure what level of fitness he's been at but he hasn't been near 100 per cent."
Brown said the nature of the injury means there is no guarantee Ponga will be available for either of the club's final two matches.
"Some days you think it's getting a bit better but [with] the load on it his problem's getting a little worse," he said.
"So whether he gets to the game this week or whether he gets to next week's game is probably anyone's guess at this stage."