Decision time for Ranger
All Blacks utility back Rene Ranger may be forced to honor a contract with Montpellier at the expense of his Test career.
Ranger made his fourth Test appearance for New Zealand - his first in three years - as a replacement in last weekend's first Test against France in Auckland..
Prior to his recall, Ranger - assuming his Test career was over - signed a three-year contract with Montpellier thought to be worth more than $1 million.
Now, Ranger's management is trying to negotiate his release from that contract to allow him to pursue his revived international career. But All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said on Thursday that the decision may no longer be the players' to make.
Montpellier is reported to have asked Ranger to pay half the value of his contract, as much as $500,000, to have his signing voided.
"From what I've just heard, the decision may not be his," Hansen revealed.
"We were well aware of his contractual situation."
Hansen on Thursday defended his decision to name Ranger in his squad for the three-Test series against France while knowing that he may not be available to the All Blacks in future.
Ranger was one of New Zealand's best players in their 23-13 Test win over France, making several powerful runs after coming off the bench.
"But we've said right from day one that if someone is playing well enough and is here for more than just the one campaign, we would consider them if they were playing better than everyone else," explained Hansen.
"He's one of those guys, hence why we picked him."
Hansen said Ranger provided the impact last weekend that the All Blacks coaches wanted from their bench players. On one of his storming late runs he knocked out France full-back Yohann Huget, who had made an ineffective attempt to stop him.
"He's a dynamo when he comes off the bench and that's what you want from your bench players," added Hansen.
"You want world-class substitutes.
"He touched the ball twice last week, yet everyone is talking about how great he was, so that tells you what an impact he had.
"He didn't show a lot of finesse when he knocked the bloke out. He just ran hard but again we were captured by that because he came out with intent and purpose and lots of energy.
"If you wrote a job description for a substitute, all those words would be in it."
At the same time, Hansen said he would continue to support All Blacks wing Julian Savea who is playing in the Tests against France while facing charges of domestic violence.
Savea is accused of assaulting his girlfriend - the mother of his only child - and faces sentence when his case returns to court in September.
Hansen said his obligation was to support the 22-year-old as he faced a difficult time in his personal and professional life.
"It's a lot for a young person, even an older person, to be able to handle," Hansen remarked.
"It's an unfortunate incident. It's not one that he's proud of or any of us are.
"All we can do is support him and help him deal with that process. There's a child involved as well which makes it even more complicated.
"But he's working his way through that, as are all parties, and I'm sure we will see the real Julian going forward which is all we want."