Rugby: Ranger on verge of recall

Northland's Rene Ranger has made his return to the All Blacks after being named in a 38-man squad to attend two camps ahead of next month's three-test series against France.

The Taniwha centre will be part of the camps later this month alongside seven of his Blues teammates, making it Ranger's first selection since being capped three times in 2010.

Ranger's selection is a result of his onfield form and his attitude that if he played well for the Blues then All Blacks selection may come his way. Obviously he was on to something.

There are few surprises in the extended squad named yesterday but Blues wing Frank Halai, who is playing his first season of Super Rugby, has earned a call-up based on form and potential, as has Hurricanes prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen. Giant Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna, Crusaders openside flanker Matt Todd and Blues flanker Luke Braid have, however, missed out.

The selectors (Steve Hansen, assistant Ian Foster and Grant Fox) have named only three hookers - Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore and Dane Coles - despite concerns over injuries and form.

Hansen said the two camps would give them a valuable head start in their early on-field preparations for the three tests against France.

"The camps will give us the opportunity to prepare a foundation on which we can grow our game throughout the Steinlager Series," Hansen said.

"As did last year, it will also give us a small window of opportunity to introduce some young players into the ways of the All Blacks and allow these players and All Blacks management to get to know each other a little better."

Hansen said while the bulk of the squad to face France would come from the 38 players attending the camps, it didn't necessarily mean those players not attending were out of the picture.

He said players' form would be continually monitored up until the announcement of the All Blacks squad.

The squad for the Steinlager Series will be named on June 2 ahead of the first test at Eden Park on June 9.

Players attending the two camps are:

Blues: Frank Halai, Steven Luatua, Keven Mealamu, Charles Piutau, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili, Piri Weepu and Ali Williams.

Chiefs: Ben Afeaki, Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam and Brodie Retallick.

Hurricanes: Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Ben Franks, TJ Perenara, Julian Savea, Brad Shields, Conrad Smith, Jeff Toomaga-Allen and Victor Vito.

Crusaders: Dominic Bird, Daniel Carter, Wyatt Crockett, Israel Dagg, Owen Franks, Kieran Read, Luke Romano, Tom Taylor and Samuel Whitelock.

Highlanders: Hosea Gear, Andrew Hore, Ma'a Nonu, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith and Tony Woodcock.

- Northern Advocate

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