Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Ranger tells Hansen he's available in emergency

Rene Ranger will captain the Taniwha in the ITM cup. Photo / Getty Images
Rene Ranger will captain the Taniwha in the ITM cup. Photo / Getty Images

Rene Ranger has told All Blacks coach Steve Hansen that he is available to help out in an emergency during the Rugby Championship but he hopes he doesn't receive a call.

Ranger joined a select list of players in the modern era when making himself unavailable for All Blacks selection after telling Hansen at last week's camp in Auckland that for family reasons he didn't want to travel during the Championship which starts for them against Australia in Sydney a week on Saturday.

Various alternatives were discussed around whether it would be possible for Ranger to play and not travel as much but in the end it didn't work. Instead, he will captain Northland in the ITM Cup before leaving for France and his new club Montpellier in early November.

Ranger said he will leave with no regrets, but the decision to deny himself the black jersey after working so hard to retain it this year was a difficult one to make.

"I had a good yarn to him [Hansen] and Fossie [Ian Foster] ... trying to work out a structure,'' Ranger said today (Mon). "But at the end of the day it was just too difficult. He [Hansen] understands my decision and I think he supports me and that's left me smiling.

"If there was an emergency or any injury concern I told him my phone will be on. Let's hope no one gets injured.

"It's pretty pleasing to hear they want you in the team but I've made the decision.''

As for that potential phone call, Ranger added: "[Hansen] always got some tricks up his sleeve [and] there are plenty of players there that can cover that spot.''

Ranger, who lives in Whangarei with his partner and baby daughter, said the almost constant travel was becoming too much. Apart from Sydney, the All Blacks also play away Championship matches in Buenos Aires and Johannesburg. The third Bledisloe Cup match is in Dunedin on October 17.

"For some fellas, they can cope with it but I've got a new-born. I've been away quite a bit. I live in Whangarei [and] I've been in Auckland with the Blues and away for the June tests and with the championship coming you're away again, plus the camps, so before I headed away I wanted to stay at home and look after them [family].''

"It was probably one of the hardest decisions I've ever made,'' he added. ``It was difficult but in my opinion family is always first and and rugby is second.''

Ranger, who was welcomed back into the All Blacks fold this year after an excellent season with the Blues, played two cameo roles in June against France before starting the final test in New Plymouth.

His ability to play wing and centre was crucial in Cory Jane's injury-forced absence and he provided cover to a thin-looking midfield. Hansen has Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith as his options there, with Blues 22-year-old Francis Saili considered too inexperienced for test rugby.

Ben Smith is Hansen's other option but the All Blacks coach refused to name him at centre for the third test against France because he had played so well on the wing in the previous two.

Ranger, 26, first cracked the All Blacks in 2010, playing three tests before this year's recall. Once back on the national team's radar he tried to get out of his Montpellier contract but to no avail.

Northland's first match will be a Ranfurly Shield challenge against Waikato in Hamilton on Saturday, August 17.

- APNZ

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