Dumped All Blacks Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu have been approached by the New Zealand Rugby League to play for the "All Golds" in the end-of-season commemorative test against a Northern Union selection - a move the NZRL hope will lead to a permanent switch of codes.
After both players missed out on selection for the All Blacks squad for the rugby World Cup, the prospect of representing the Kiwis in next year's centenary rugby league World Cup may entice Weepu and Nonu to return to the code they grew up playing.
Both have previously expressed a desire to play in the NRL, but the lure of the All Blacks jersey had proved a powerful deterrent.
Weepu's shock omission from the 29-man All Blacks squad announced on Sunday has sparked speculation that the 23-year-old Hurricanes halfback will seek a release from the remaining year of his New Zealand Rugby Union contract to play league - and Nonu is even more strongly tipped to switch codes.
Weepu grew up in the Wellington league stronghold of Wainuiomata and was destined to wear the Kiwis No 7 jersey until he attended an rugby college in Hawke's Bay and excelled in the sport.
The NZRU had hoped to satisfy his interest in league when they allowed him to train with the Newcastle Knights during the off-season, but Weepu's snubbing may now be the catalyst for him to cross codes permanently.
The Sharks, Dragons, Knights and Storm have all previously expressed interest in Weepu, with Knights operations manager Stephen Crowe telling the Dominion Post yesterday that Weepu's signing would be a coup for the club.
"We're certainly interested in talking to quality players at any time," Crowe said.
"I haven't followed his rugby form in New Zealand all that closely but I'm surprised he wasn't selected for the World Cup.
"Our problem would be, as is the case with other NRL clubs, salary cap restrictions."
A code switch to the NRL would probably mean Weepu takes a hefty pay cut to fit under a club's salary cap, which is $A4 million ($NZ4.48 million) a season.
England's big-spending Super League clubs, who have attracted a string of NRL players this year including Kangaroos test player Matt King, may appeal more.
But Crowe hoped Weepu would consider Newcastle strongly.
"I know he enjoyed his time here and certainly, if he was interested in playing NRL, I'd certainly hope he'd consider talking to us," he said.
"I think he enjoyed himself, he picked up a few things that he took back home and we certainly appreciated his time with us and I know Andrew Johns in particular, enjoyed working with him.
"If he was happy to look at a career in the NRL then we'd be happy to talk to him but I don't think we'd be any more proactive than that."
One aspect in the NRL's favour is the fact that Weepu's cousin, Wiremu Weepu, plays for Penrith, while rookie Brisbane hooker John Te Reo is another childhood friend.
It is understood that Weepu - who has a long passing game that has been compared to Ricky Stuart's and can kick off both feet - would want to play halfback or five-eighth in league.
Former All Blacks coach John Hart, now director of football with the Warriors, told the Sydney Morning Herald last week that league would always struggle to keep elite juniors such as Weepu if the NZRU wanted them for their code. However, if their rugby careers went backwards, they might look to the NRL.
"Once the Piri Weepus get to provincial standard, they want to play for the All Blacks, but he's always talked about league," Hart said.
"He's got a league background and maybe some of those guys once they've reached their peak in rugby or have achieved their goals in rugby, they may see league as another journey."
The NZRU deals with requests for early releases on a case-by-case basis and the SMH understands that Weepu would have a big chance of success if he demanded one, with young union halfbacks Brendon Leonard, Andrew Ellis and Jimmy Cowan already under contracts.
But those who know Weepu also say he is extremely competitive and he may remain in at home to regain his standing in union.
The NZRL has issued informal invitations within the past 48 hours to both Weepu and Nonu - who can play fullback, wing or centre - to feature in the historic one-off Test against Northern Union at Warrington on October 20, the same day as the rugby World Cup final.