All Blacks coach Steve Hansen says he will continue to pick Rene Ranger despite his impending departure to play club rugby in France but that the door hasn't been closed on Crusaders midfielder Ryan Crotty.
Ranger has been included in the All Blacks wider training squad for the two-day camp in Auckland this week and is likely to make the final cut for the Rugby Championship when the squad is named on Sunday.
The 26-year-old will leave for Montpellier after the ITM Cup but his ability to play both centre and wing makes him a valuable component of Hansen's side in the continuing absence through injury of wing Cory Jane.
Ranger played two sparkling cameos against France in June before earning a starting spot in the final test at New Plymouth.
"We've always said we'll pick the best players that are available and at this point he is available, so we'll be looking to use him if that continues to be the case,'' Hansen said on Radio Sport this morning.
Centre Conrad Smith's sabbatical at the end of the year means the midfield remains a topic of much discussion. Hansen's options there apart from Smith are Ranger, Ben Smith and Francis Saili, the Blues 22-year-old called into the All Blacks squad this year for the first time but yet to make his test debut.
Asked about Crotty, a 24-year-old who has played consistently well for the Crusaders this season but has never been involved in the All Blacks set-up, Hansen replied: ``He's played very very well and he's certainly someone we've talked about so he's done all he can at this point.''
No Chiefs players have been included in the 30-player squad due to their Super Rugby final against the Brumbies in Hamilton on Saturday, but Hansen confirmed their big tighthead prop Ben Tameifuna wouldn't be included due to a lack of fitness.
"He's not fit enough to play international rugby and until he is we won't look at him.''
Hansen said Chiefs flanker Tanerau Latimer was in with a chance of being named. The loose forwards in the mix so far are the returning Richie McCaw, Matt Todd, Steven Luatua, Brad Shields, Kieran Read and Victor Vito. Sam Cane will also presumably be in the frame after being the incumbent No7 in McCaw's absence in June.
The All Blacks' first test is against the Wallabies in Sydney on August 17. They will assemble in Wellington on August 9 for a warm-up game against a Wellington XV and Canterbury XV at Lower Hutt.
All Blacks training squad:
Hookers: Dane Coles, Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu.
Props: Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks and Tony Woodcock.
Locks: Luke Romano, Jeremy Thrush and Samuel Whitelock.
Loose forwards: Steven Luatua, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Brad Shields, Matt Todd and Victor Vito.
Halfbacks: TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith and Piri Weepu.
First five-eighths: Beauden Barrett and Daniel Carter.
Midfielders: Ma'a Nonu, Rene Ranger, Francis Saili and Conrad Smith.
Outside backs: Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau, Julian Savea and Ben Smith.