Ranger on standby for All Blacks
New Zealand centre Rene Ranger's decision to pull out of the Rugby Championship was one of the hardest he has ever had to make - but he has not ruled out a call-up to the All Blacks if required.
The former Blues player recently made himself unavailable for selection in Steve Hansen's 28-man squad to play the quadrangular tournament against Australia, South Africa and Argentina and will instead captain Northland in the ITM Cup.
The switch will allow him to spend more time at home with his baby and partner in Whangarei before leaving to take up a lucrative deal with French Top 14 club Montpellier in November.
Ranger revealed All Blacks management attempted to devise a 'structure' that would allow him to attend to his young family and also fulfil team requirements, but in the end he decided a clean break was the best option.
"At the end of the day it was a bit too difficult so he [Hansen] understands my decision and I think he supports me," Ranger said.
"Shag [Hansen] told me [he would call me] if there was an emergency or if there were any injury concerns. I told him my phone would be on."
The All Blacks are at risk with just two specialist midfielders - Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith - in the squad but could call upon wing Ben Smith and fly-half Dan Carter to fill in at centre and inside centre, respectively.
Only a worst-case scenario would see Ranger called in, meaning he has likely played his last game of a fleeting career in the black jersey.
The 26-year-old said turning down All Blacks selection was extremely difficult and signalled his desire to return to New Zealand rugby in the future.
However, the reality is he will be 30 when he finishes his three-year deal in France and probably will not be considered for international selection if he decides to return.
"It's probably one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. Probably one of the hardest after signing a contract to go overseas," Ranger said.
"But in my opinion family comes first and rugby is second."